African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital Anthology

James Weldon Johnson: Author Page

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was a prominent activist, composer, poet, and editor. He is best known for composing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (1899) sometimes referred to as the "Black National Anthem," but he rose to prominence in the literary world as the author of Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), his first collection of poems, Fifty Years and Other Poems (1917), and his edited collection The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922). 

In 1927, Johnson published another volume of poetry -- in the forms of verse sermons -- called God's Trombones. A digital edition of that book is available here. It contains "The Creation," a poem Johnson had first published in 1920, and which was widely anthologized during the Harlem Renaissance. . 

Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida and attended Atlanta University, a Historically Black university. He and his brother later moved to New York City. Johnson also occupied a position of prominence with the NAACP, serving as its executive director between 1920 and 1930. 

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