June 17

June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938    James Weldon Johnson

 

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James Weldon Johnson

On June 17, 1871 civil rights activist, author, songwriter, lawyer and educator James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida.  African Americans in February of each year are reminded of James Weldon Johnson’s creative genius when they sing the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.   Johnson’s poetic creativity was accompanied by his gift of leadership, especially with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he served as the first African American executive secretary for the organization.  He was  also an attorney and the first African American admitted to the Florida Bar Exam after construction, and later served as a diplomat in Venezuela and Nicaragua as the US Consul.  Johnson taught as a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University and was the first African American professor at New York University.  Johnson died on June 26, 1938 in Wiscasset, Maine at age 67.