African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Maggie Pogue Johnson (1883-1956): Author Page

This author biography was researched and written by Sarah Thompson in June 2024. 

Maggie Pogue Johnson (1883-1956) was a teacher, composer, and poet. She was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Pogue, an early pastor of Fincastle’s First Baptist Church, and Lucy Jane Bannister. Her parents’ dedication to education influenced their children’s pursuits, with five becoming teachers, two physicians, one a minister, one a pharmacist, and one a farmer among the ten who survived to adulthood. 

Maggie was trained as a teacher, attending Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute in Petersburg, an HBCU that continues to operate today under a new name. In 1904, she married Dr. Walter W. Johnson of Staunton, VA, with whom she had one child before his passing. She later married Dr. John Wesley Shellcroft, a native of Antigua, British West Indies. Her literary career spanned from the post-Reconstruction era through the Harlem Renaissance and into the post-World War II period, during which she published at least four books and wrote over 20 songs, including “I Know That I Love You.”

Johnson’s poetry is written in both Standard English and a Southern-inspired African American dialect (AAVE). Her first collection, Virginia Dreams: Lyrics for the Idle Hour, Tales of the Time Told in Rhyme (1910), is celebrated for its dialect poems, featuring female-speaking subjects who challenge traditional gender roles of women. This work appropriates the plantation conventions but recenters them on African American experiences, moving away from traditional tellings of white supremacy and nostalgia for the antebellum years. Johnson also has written tribute poems to notable figures like W.H. Sheppard and Booker T. Washington. 

Works Cited
Mance, Ajuan Maria. Before Harlem: An Anthology of African American Literature from the Long 
      Nineteenth Century
, University of Tennessee Press, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,    
Who's Who of the Colored Race: A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African       
Vol. 1. United States, pg 157, 1915.

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