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James Weldon Johnson
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    (June 17, 1871-June 26, 1938)
    Born in Jacksonville, Florida
    Poet, educator, songwriter, diplomat, critic, journalist and civil rights activist
    Poems include 'To a Friend (1892),' 'Lift Every Voice and Sing (1899),' 'The Black Mammy (1900),' 'O Black and Unknown Bards (1908),' 'Brothers (1916),' 'Go Down, Death (1926),' 'God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927)' and 'Saint Peter Relates an Incident (1935)'
    Author of the books 'The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912),' 'Self-Determining Haiti (1920),' 'The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922),' 'Second Book of Negro Spirituals (1926),' 'Black Manhattan (1930),' 'Along This Way (1933)' and 'Negro Americans, What Now? (1934)'
    Appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as U.S. consul of Venezuela (1906-08) and then Nicaragua (1909–13)
    Won the W.E.B. Du Bois Prize for Negro Literature and named first incumbent of Spence Chair of Creative Literature at Fisk University (1933)
    Died when his car hit a train in Wiscasset, Maine
    Jacksonville's James Weldon Johnson Middle School named in his honor
    U.S. Postal Service issued a 22 cent postage stamp in his honor (February 2, 1988)
    At age 23 he became principal of Stanton Public School (the largest in Jacksonville), yet was paid half the wages white principals in the area were making.
    He became a lawyer.
    In 1913 he changed his middle name from William to Weldon for reasons known only to him.
    He (along with his brother) composed the opera 'Tolosa,' which satirizes the U.S. annexation of the Pacific islands.
    He published 'The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man' in 1912 anonymously, not owning up to being the author until 1927.
    He was foolishly driving his car near his summer home in a blinding rainstorm and never saw the train that hit him and ended his life.
    In 1897, he was the first black admitted to the Florida Bar Exam (one assessor left the room in disgust due to his race).
    'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' a poem he put to music to honor Abraham Lincoln, was adopted by the NAACP as the Negro National Anthem.
    He held several positions with the group.
    He wrote the melody for the traditional spiritual song "Dem Bones.'
    He became one of the first black professors at New York University.
    He helped organize a silent civil rights protest parade down New York's Fifth Avenue where 10,000 African-Americans participated (July 28, 1917).
    He was a driving force behind the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1921.
    He was part of the 1920's movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, which focused on the cultural (literature, drama, music, visual art, dance) and intellectual life of African-Americans.
    His funeral in Harlem was attended by over 2,000 people.

Credit: Scar Tactics

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