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 Travelers, to J. Rosamond Johnson

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" Video

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" Lyrics

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), teacher, writer, diplomat and secretary of the NAACP, made a lasting impression on the cultural and social life of the Negro* in America. He was the author of numerous books of both prose and verse. Some of his more notable works are Fifty Years and Other Poems; God’s Trombone: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse; The Book of American Negro Poetry; Black Manhattan; the Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, a fictional  biography published in 1912; and his own autobiography, Along This Way, in 1933.

            His famous poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (1900), which his brother J. Rosamond Johnson set to music, was adopted by many depressed Blacks* of the 1930’s as their national hymn. His dramatic version of “The Creation” is still performed today, by dramatic readers, over television networks. One of his most notable poems praises the nameless authors of the Negro spirituals; “O Black and Unknown Bards of Long Ago”.

Johnson was a contributor to The Nation, Crisis and several other national magazines, editor of the New York Age newspaper and an extremely popular columnist for 10 years.

Johnson was born in Florida and was educated in Atlanta and New York City. He practiced law in Florida and taught school in his native state for a few years before joining his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in New York, to collaborate with him in writing musical comedies. He served as executive secretary of the NAACP and led the campaign for the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1921. Previously, Johnson had served the United States government as consul in Nicaragua. He was professor of creative literature at Fisk University at the time of his death.

In his book Negro Americans, What Now, published in 1934, he helped to explain the Negro’s cultural contributions and achievements in literature and music and gave his own philosophy and expectations for the future of the Negro.

Source: International Library of Negro Life and History by Wilhelmena S. Robinson, Publishers Company, Inc., New York, Washington, London under the auspices of The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (1967).*Black has been substituted for the word “Negro” originally used in this citation or the word “Negro” is used in its historical context of respect.



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