December 1, 2020

James Weldon Johnson – “Lift Every Voice And Sing”

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History, there lived an African American man named James Weldon Johnson. Born on June 17, 1871 in Jacksonsonville, Florida, and after living a life completely devoted to uplifting and building black communities from America to Haiti, he died in a wreck in 1938 when a train hit his car. Grace Nail Johnson, his wife and driver of the car, survived the wreck which happened in the northern state of Maine.

But what about the life of the man who left us so tragically? His life wasn’t lived in vain.

James Weldon Johnson was a

  • writer (Lift Every Voice and Sing, a poem that became known as the Black National Anthem)
  • author (a well known Harlem Renaissance author)
    • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
    • The Book of American Negro Poetry (Parts one and two)
    • The Book of American Negro Spirituals
    • Fifty Years and Other Poems
    • Black Manhattan
    • Negro Americans, What Now?
  • lawyer
  • diplomat
  • educator (1st African American hired to teach at New York University)
  • civil rights activist (NAACP, 1st executive secretary of the organization over the span of for ten years)

Determined to to bridge the gap for African Americans between have nots and have it all, James Weldon Johnson served not only the country of America as the US Consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua, but he also wrote a column that pushed African Americans to protest against US occupation in the country of Haiti because it was destroying it with segregation and corruption. The protest worked, and the US left the country.

Not only was James Weldon Johnson and entrepreneur when it came to his creative writing, he was also an intrapreneur when it came down to civil rights. He was responsible for the NAACP’s growth in the southern United States where there was much to fight against for black people, such as Jim Crow laws.

Being a writer, he was also very passionate about pushing other young black people to pick up their pens, and not only write, but get published.

Although his life was short lived, his influence as a creator, activist and entrepreneur paved the way for thousands of African Americans. It is also a reminder that all black people must continuously lift their voices and sing!

Generations are still singing.