James Weldon Johnson Was Born
June 17, 1871
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
march on till victory is won.
is part of the song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Its lyrics were
written by James Weldon Johnson to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's
birthday. Johnson was born on June 17, 1871, in Jacksonville,
Florida. He was a poet, diplomat, songwriter, and anthologist
(compiler) of African American culture. During his lifetime, Johnson
faced many a new day and sang his song in many different ways.
Johnson started his career as principal of a
black high school in Jacksonville. He began practicing law in
1898, when he was admitted to the Florida bar. In 1901, he
moved to New York City with his brother, composer John Rosamond
Johnson, who put "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to music.
There, the two brothers wrote some 200 songs for Broadway
productions. Then President Theodore Roosevelt appointed
James W. Johnson United States consul to Venezuela in 1906. Some
years later, Johnson took on another important leadership role.
In 1920, Johnson became the secretary of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP). Through the NAACP, he was able to further the
opportunities and careers of other African Americans.
Throughout his life, Johnson wrote poetry, for which he is best
known. He is also well known for his anthologies of
African American poetry, which provided inspiration,
encouragement, and recognition to the new generation of artists
who would create the "Harlem Renaissance" of the 1920s and
1930s. Johnson did indeed "march on till victory [was]