James Weldon Johnson

Jacksonville, FL | 1871 - 1938

James Weldon Johnson was an influential and notable novelist, poet, songwriter, lawyer and a United States consul in a foreign nation. He served an important role in combating racism through his position in the NAACP. Born in Jacksonville, Florida on June 17, 1871, Johnson grew up in a middle-class home, where his mother encouraged him to pursue an interest in reading and music. After college, Johnson became the principal of Stanton School and expanded the school to include a high school. In 1898, he was admitted to the Florida Bar. While balancing his dual career as principal and lawyer, Johnson found time to write poetry and songs, achieving success with the composition of around 200 songs for Broadway. Johnson also became involved in politics and was appointed as the United States consul in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela and Corinto, Nicaragua by the Roosevelt Administration. Johnson held several positions in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where he was able to bring attention to racism, lynching and segregation. Johnson believed that it was important for blacks to produce great literature and art to demonstrate their intellectual equality and advance their placement in America.