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James Weldon Johnson

todayJuly 28, 2023 4

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James Weldon Johnson

Writer and Civil Rights Activist James Weldon Johnson

Profession: Writer and Civil Rights Activist

Nationality: American

Biography: James Weldon Johnson displayed an extraordinary array of talent throughout his life, becoming a lawyer, diplomat, writer, poet and civil rights leader.

Johnson was the first African American to pass the bar in Florida in 1897. He became American Consul to Venezuela in 1906 and during that appointment wrote his novel “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” anonymously. His earlier poem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” (1899) was put to music by his brother and later became the anthem of the NAACP.

Johnson is best remembered as the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1920-1930, its 1st African American Executive Secretary. In 1917 he organised a silent protest march of 10,000 people down NYC’s 5th Avenue was working for the NAACP.

Johnson was also an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, publishing his own poetry, and anthologies of others. In later years he was the first African American professor at a New York university.

Born: 17 June 1871
Birthplace: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Star Sign: Gemini

Died: 26 June 1938 (aged 67)
Cause of Death: when the car his wife was driving was hit by a train

Married Life

  • 03-02-1910 Author James Weldon Johnson (38) weds civil rights activist Grace Nail Johnson (24) at her family’s home

Historical Events

  • 12-12-1900 James Weldon Johnson’s poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, is set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson; the hymn becomes known as the Black national anthem
  • 28-07-1917 Silent Parade organised by James Weldon Johnson of 10,000 African-Americans who march on 5th Ave in NYC to protest against lynching
  • 19-12-1930 James Weldon Johnson resigns as executive secretary of NAACP

Written by: Mandy Law

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