James Weldon Johnson

African-American Literature

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871—June 26, 1938) wrote the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” which proved so popular that it became known as the “Negro National Anthem.” Johnson moved to New York City in 1901 to work with his brother Rosamond, a composer, and the team enjoyed some success on Broadway. In 1906, Johnson was named U. S. Consul to Venezuela. While employed by the diplomatic corps, he had poems published in The Century Magazine and The Independent. In 1912, he anonymously published his novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, the story of a musician who rejects his black roots for a life of material comfort in the white world. Johnson became the national organizer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1920. In 1922, he edited The Book of American Negro Poetry, a major contribution to the history of African-American literature. His book of poetry, God’s Trombones (1927) was influenced by his impressions of the rural South, drawn from a trip he took to Georgia while a freshman in college. It was this trip that ignited his interest in the African-American tradition.


The Creation

O, Black and Unknown Bards

To America