James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 - June 26, 1938) was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917. In 1920 he was the first African American to be chosen as executive secretary of the organization, effectively the operating officer. He served in that position from 1920 to 1930. Johnson established his reputation as a writer, and was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture.
He was appointed under President Theodore Roosevelt as US consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua for most of the period from 1906 to 1913. In 1934 he was the first African-American professor to be hired at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University.ohnson was born in 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Helen Louise Dillet, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, and James Johnson. His maternal great-grandmother, Hester Argo, had escaped from Saint-Domingue during the revolutionary upheaval in 1802, along with her three young children, including James's grandfather Stephen Dillet (1797-1880). Although originally headed to Cuba, their boat was intercepted by privateers and they were taken to Nassau, Bahamas, where they permanently settled. In 1833 Stephen Dillet became the first man of color to win election to the Bahamian legislature (ref. James Weldon Johnson, Along this Way, his autobiography)
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