Songwriter and activist founded NAACP
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:
CLOSING A PRAYER
CONGO LOVE SONG
FANDANGO DE CANDIL
GHOST OF DEACON BROWN, THE
GO DOWN DEATH
GODDISS IN THE GARDEN, THE
IF THE SANDS OF TIME…
JUNDGEMENT DAY, THE
LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
MAIDEN WITH THE DREAMY EYES, THE
MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT
MY CASLTE ON THE NILE
NOBODY’S LOOKIN’ BUT THE OWL AND THE MOON
OLD FLAG NEVER TOUCHED THE GROUND
OPENING A PRAYER
ROLL DEM COTTON BALLS
SINCE YOU WENT AWAY
TELL ME, DUSKY MAIDEN
UNDER THE BAMBOO TREE
WON’T YOUR MAMMA LET YOU COME OUT?
YOUNG WARRIOR, THE
YOUR EYES SO DEEP