Black History Fact of the Week: James Weldon Johnson
Educator, attorney, lyricist and writer
On June 17, 1871, James Weldon Johnson, writer of the lyrics for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” (then called the Negro National Anthem), was born in Jacksonville, Fla., to James and Helen Johnson.
Coming from a well-educated and cultured family, Johnson was first taught by his schoolteacher mother. She instilled in him a sense of appreciation for English literature and the European tradition in music.
At the young age of 16, the future musician and trailblazer enrolled at Atlanta University and graduated in 1894. He then went on to teach African American students in his hometown. By 23, he had become principal of the same school where his mother taught.
Johnson made strides in education, leading the largest public school in the area, regardless of race. He also improved the system by adding the ninth and tenth grades and several subjects, including algebra, English and bookkeeping.
In 1901, he pursued a career in writing. He and his brother John worked together, composing some 200 songs for Broadway.
After leaving entertainment and education, Johnson became involved with politics and law. In 1897, he became the first Black person to be admitted to the Florida Bar since Reconstruction.
He worked for the NAACP and as United States consul in a foreign nation. While working for the civil rights organization, Johnson was able to bring attention to the racial ills plaguing America.
Johnson published several literary works and contributed to the transformation of America’s racist laws and policies. He died in 1938 near his summer home in Wiscasset, Me., when his car was hit by a train.
His legacy lives on through his words and songs of wisdom.
For more Black history facts, visit www.Black365.us.
On Sept. 13, 1886, world renowned writer and philosopher, Alain LeRoy Locke was born in Philadelphia, Pa., to math teacher and activist, Pliny Ishmael Locke and educator Mary Hawkins Locke.
He was a sickly child with rheumatic fever, but coped by reading a great deal and learning to play the piano and violin. The sickness damaged his heart for life.
On Aug. 17, 1887, Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, to Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. The youngest of 11 children, Garvey, along with his sister Indiana, were the only two to survive to maturity.
Naturally apt to revolutionary thought and action, in his young adult years he became a trade unionist, and in 1907 was elected vice president of the compositors’ branch of the printers’ union.
We’re not called ‘Negroes’ anymore. It’s a racial identification from our past; we’ve moved on …now we’re black or African American. We rarely stop to think of the power behind the word ‘Negro,’ and that at one time in our history it stood for dignity, power, and love. It meant that none of us were free, until we were all free and that we had a special bond that manifested itself in education; honor and trusting in God to give us the strength to do what needed to be done.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles Black community will roll out the red carpet this Saturday as one of the most powerful Black men in the United States makes appearances throughout the city.
Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC), who holds the title of Majority Whip for the 110th Congress, will speak at Anthony Samad, Ph.D.’s Urban Issues Forum and hold a press conference in conjunction with California Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass on Saturday at First A.M.E. Church, located at 1968 W. Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles.
On Sept. 26, 2001, police officer Stephen Roach was acquitted of all charges in the shooting death of an unarmed 19-year-old Black man—Timothy Thomas.
The shooting occurred on April 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio, when two off-duty police officers spotted the young man walking down the street. Thomas had 14 outstanding warrants out for his arrest, 12 of them for traffic violations. The other warrants were for evading the police. After noticing the police, the young man began to run. Within minutes, 12 officers were in pursuit.