Songwriter and activist founded NAACP

James W. Johnson

Inductee
Born/Died
Inducted

Wrote lyrics for "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing"

Lyricist, lawyer, activist, diplomat and educator James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida on June 17, 1871. Educated at Atlanta University where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Masters degrees, Johnson also passed the Florida bar (after his self-education).

In the early 1900’s, Johnson moved to New York began writing songs, collaborating with his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson. In a relatively short period of time, Johnson produced such hits as “Under the Bamboo Tree”, “Life Every Voice and Sing”, “Since You Went Away”, “The Maiden With the Dreamy Eyes”, “Nobody’s Lookin’ but the Owl and the Moon”, “Tell Me, Dusky Maiden”, “My Castle on the Nile”, “Congo Love Song”, “The Young Warrior”, “The Awakening”, “Two Eyes”, “Morning Moon and Night” and “The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground”.

Johnson also translated the Enrique Grandos opera Goyescas, which was produced by New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1915.

However, songwriting was a minor step in the extensive resume and humanitarian life of James W. Johnson. Throughout his life he worked as a principal at the Stanton School, was the founder and editor of the first African American daily in the United States, the Daily American, he was appointed to the US consul for Puerto Cabello, Venezeula and later to Corinto, Nicaragua, worked as the assistant editor of NY Age, was a visiting professor of creative literature at Nashville’s Fisk University, was a trustee at Atlanta University, served as a director for the American Fund for Public Service and for 14 years, was the National Secretary of the NAACP.

Johnson also wrote several books on African American life in the United States: Negro Americans, What Now?, Black Manhattan, God’s Trombones, St. Peter Relates an Incident, The Book of American Negro Poetry and an autobiography Along This Way.

James W. Johnson died in Wiscasset, Maine on June 26, 1938.

James W. Johnson Song List:

AWAKENING, THE

CLOSING A PRAYER

CONGO LOVE SONG

CREATION, THE

ENTERTAINERS, THE

FANDANGO DE CANDIL

GHOST OF DEACON BROWN, THE

GO DOWN DEATH

GOD’S TROMBONES

GODDISS IN THE GARDEN, THE

IF THE SANDS OF TIME…

JUNDGEMENT DAY, THE

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING

LISTEN LORD

MAIDEN WITH THE DREAMY EYES, THE

MALAGUENAS

MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT

MY CASLTE ON THE NILE

NOBODY’S LOOKIN’ BUT THE OWL AND THE MOON

O SOUTHLAND

OLD FLAG NEVER TOUCHED THE GROUND

OPENING A PRAYER

ROLL DEM COTTON BALLS

SCHOEPFUNG

SINCE YOU WENT AWAY

TELL ME, DUSKY MAIDEN

TWO EYES

UNDER THE BAMBOO TREE

WON’T YOUR MAMMA LET YOU COME OUT?

YOUNG WARRIOR, THE

YOUR EYES SO DEEP

Celebrated poet, author, educator and diplomat

Links

Acknowledgements

Biography & Discography:

ASCAP Ace Database (www.ascap.com)

ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, 3rd Edition. Copyright 1966.

Pop Memories: 1890-1954
Whitburn, Joel.
Record Research, Inc. Copyright 1986.


Material and Memorabilia:

All Material provided is courtesy of the Songwriters Hall of Fame archives.