Winold Reiss, 16 Sep 1886 - 29 Aug 1953
James Weldon Johnson, 17 Jun 1871 - 27 Jun 1938
Pastel on illustration board
76.3cm x 54.7cm (30 1/16" x 21 9/16"), Accurate
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; purchase funded by Lawrence A. Fleischman and Howard Garfinkle with a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts
Restrictions & Rights
Born Jacksonville, Florida
James Weldon Johnson was a Renaissance man: successful Broadway lyricist, poet, novelist, diplomat, and a key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1900 he collaborated with his brother John 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 "New Negro" movement and 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.