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James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida on June 17th 1871. His early education was at home from his mother, Helen, a musician and a public school teacher (the first female, black teacher in Florida at a grammar school) and then at Edwin M. Stanton School. At 16 his education moved to Atlanta University, graduating with a degree in 1894. This classical education gave Johnson the impetus to put his life to work for the benefit of black people. In 1904 Johnson helped in Theodore Roosevelt's presidential bid. On winning Roosevelt appointed him as US consul at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela from 1906–1908 and then Nicaragua from 1909–1913. During his work in Nicaragua he married Grace Nail whom he had met in New York a few years earlier whilst writing songs. His career spanned several elements; education, the diplomatic corps, civil rights activism, literature, poetry, and music. Johnson worked for the NAACP from 1916 as a field secretary, organizing local chapters. To counter race riots and lynching’s he organized mass demonstrations, such as a silent protest parade of over ten thousand African Americans down New York’s Fifth Avenue on July 28, 1917. In 1920 Johnson was elected to manage the NAACP, the FIRST African American to hold this position. That same year he was dispatched to monitor conditions in Haiti and described in The Nation the brutal occupation and also offered remedies. During the 20 he was one of the major inspirations of the Harlem Renaissance In the midst of all this he continued to write novels, poems, and folklore. In 1917, he saw published 50 Years and Other Poems. In 1922, he edited The Book of American Negro Poetry, which the Academy of American Poets calls "a major contribution to the history of African-American literature." In 1927 followed God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. James Weldon Johnson died on June 26th, 1938 whilst vacationing in Wiscasset, Maine his car was hit by a train.
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