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James Weldon Johnson

@ National Portrait Gallery


Born Jacksonville, FloridaJames Weldon Johnson was a Renaissance man: successful Broadway lyricist, poet, novelist, diplomat, and a key figure in the NAACP. In 1900, he collaborated with his brother to produce “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song that later acquired the subtitle of “The Negro National Anthem.” President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Johnson consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua, where he served with great distinction. In the 1920s, Johnson became a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, known for his anthology, The Book of American Negro Poetry; his work on African American religion, God’s Trombones; and Black Manhattan, the first history of African Americans in New York City. As chief operating officer of the NAACP during that same decade, he helped formulate the strategy that would later overturn American segregation laws. The background of this portrait recalls “Creation,” Johnson’s best-known poem in God’s Trombones.Nacido en Jacksonville, FloridaJames Weldon Johnson fue un hombre renacentista: exitoso letrista de Broadway, poeta, novelista, diplomático y figura clave de la Asociación Nacional para el Progreso de las Personas de Color (NAACP en inglés). En 1900 colaboró con su hermano en la creación de “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, canción que llegaría a conocerse como el “himno nacional negro”. Nombrado por el presidente Theodore Roosevelt, Johnson fue cónsul en Venezuela y Nicaragua, donde sirvió con gran distinción. En la década de 1920 fue figura clave del movimiento Harlem Renaissance, destacándose por su antología The Book of American Negro Poetry, su obra God’s Trombones sobre la tradición religiosa...
Oil On Canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Harmon Foundation
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Smithsonian Institution