November 6

November 6, 1901    James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson Compose “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.

On November 6, 1901, two brothers (James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson) composed what has become one of the most respected, honored and revered songs of African American cullture, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, generally referred to as the Black national anthem.  James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics, while J. Rosamond Johnson composed the hymn.   “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first publicly performed live in 1900 by 500 African American students who attended the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida.

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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. 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.

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J. Rosamond Johnson

John Rosamond Johnson who was known as J. Rosamond Johnson was the younger brother of James Weldon Johnson. He was born on August 11, 1873. Johnson was a noted singer and composer. He was educated at the New England Consrvatory and in London, England. He began his professional musical career in New York City with his brother and Bob Cole.

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Bob Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson

John Rosamond Johnson would become known internationally for his musical productions on Broadway in New York City and in London.  He died on November 11, 1954 at age 81.