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Johnson, James Weldon

    James Weldon Johnson (née James William Johnson in Jacksonville, Florida on 17 June 1871) was the son of a headwaiter and a schoolteacher, the first female black public school teacher in Florida. His parents had come from Nassau, Bahamas. He graduated from school in Jacksonville, then went to Nassau to stay with relatives and then to New York. He moved to Atlanta where he earned an A.B. degree in 1894. Foe two summers while in college , he taught in Hampton, Georgia, getting his first real glimpse of life  as experienced by rural, working-class blacks. After Atlanta University, he returned to Jacksonville and became principal where his mother taught.  As principal he added the ninth and tenth grades. 
    Johnson was not content to be just a school principal. He founded the newspaper, the Daily American in 1895 but had to close it eight months later. He studied law and passed the Florida bar exam, the first black person to do so. He joined his younger brother, John Rosamond, who graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1897, in writing the lyrics to songs while his brother wrote the music. Their most famous work was "Lift Every Voice and Sing," commonly called the Negro National Anthem. In 1902, the two brothers moved to New York to form a  song writing partnership with Bob Cole. Then he moved to New York, where their partnership with Cole proved very successful. In 1903, he began taking graduate courses at Columbia University.
    In 1906, when Theodore Roosevelt, a liberal, was president, he was appointed to the consulship at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. In 1909, he assumed the same post in Corinto, Nicaragua. The next year, he married the daughter of a prosperous real estate developer from New York. He played an important role in the success of the United States military intervention in 1912. That same year, he published The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, a novel which he disguised as a factual story and on which he did not put his name. His diplomatic career was going nowhere so he resigned in 1913 and moved back to Jacksonville 
    In 1914, he moved to New York and pursued a literary career. He was an editorial writer for the New York Age. In 1917, Fifty Years and Other Poems. He wrote The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922), The Book of American Negro Spirituals (1925), The Second Book of Negro Spirituals (1926), God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927), Black Manhattan (1930),  Along This Way (1933), and Negro Americans, What Now? (1934). He was a strong advocate of civil rights and racial integration, having become a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  and general secretary of the NAACP in 1920. 
    His life was cut short when a train struck his car on June 26, 1938 near his summer home in Wiscasset, Maine.

His death was a tragic loss for the United States.