James Weldon Johnson was born in
Jacksonville, Florida on June 17, 1871. Johnson attended high school
and Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.
After graduation he returned to
Jacksonville and established a high school for Blacks. He served as
the principal of the school and studied law in his spare time. He
became the first Black to be admitted to the Florida Bar in 1897.
Johnson wrote songs with his brother
including Lift every Voice and Sing which later became the
Black national anthem. He moved to New York in 1901 to continue his
studies. He studied at Columbia University and later returned to
Atlanta University for his Masters Degree. He was appointed Consul in
Porto Cabrello, Venezuela in 1906 and Consul in Corinto, Nicaragua in
He is best remembered for his novel, The
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored man, which he wrote in 1912. This
novel listed many of the grievances that black society had against the
racial policies of white society. He is also known for his poetry such
as, God's Trombones: Negro Sermons in Verse. He was the
secretary of the NAACP from 1916 to 1930 and from 1925 he was a
professor of creative literature at Fisk University and a visiting
professor at New York University.
James Weldon Johnson was killed in an
automobile crash on June 26, 1938 near Wiscasset, Maine.