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Georgia Douglas Johnson

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Known for: Harlem Renaissance figure
Occupation: poet, playwright, journalist
Dates: September 10, 1880 - May 14, 1966
Also known as: Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp

Background, Family:

  • Father: George Camp
  • Mother: Laura Jackson Camp
  • born in Atlanta, Georgia; birth year is uncertain, given as early as 1877 and as late as 1886
  • her mixed race heritage (African American on both sides, English on her father's, Native American on her mother's) is a theme that she explores in some of her writings

Education:

  • Atlanta University Normal School (graduated 1893)
  • Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1902)
  • Cleveland College of Music

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Henry Lincoln Johnson (married 1903; lawyer; appointed recorder of deeds, Washington, 1912; Republican National Committeeman from Georgia, 1920-1925)
  • children: Henry Lincoln Johnson, Jr. (born 1906) and Peter Douglas Johnson (born 1907)

About Georgia Douglas Johnson:

Before her marriage, Georgia Douglas taught and was an assistant principal in Georgia. She married Henry Lincoln Johnson, an attorney in Atlanta active in the Republican Party.

Moving to Washington, DC, in 1909, Georgia Douglas Johnson's home was often the site of salons or gatherings of African American writers and artists.

Georgia Douglas Johnson published her first poems in 1916 in the NAACP's Crisis magazine, and her first book of poetry in 1918, The Heart of a Woman, focusing on the experience of a woman. Jessie Fauset helped her select the poems for the book. In her 1922 collection, Bronze, she responded to early criticism by focusing more on racial experience.

She wrote more than 200 poems, 40 plays, 30 songs, and edited 100 books by 1930. Her husband reluctantly supported her writing career until his death in 1925. In that year, President Coolidge appointed Johnson to a position as Commissioner of Conciliation in the Department of Labor, recognizing her late husband's support of the Republican Party.

Her home was open in the 1920s and early 1930s to the African American artists of the day, including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Angelina Grimke, W.E.B. DuBois, James Weldon Johnson, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Anne Spencer.

Georgia Douglas Johnson continued to write, publishing her best-known book, An Autumn Love Cycle, in 1925. She wrote a syndicated weekly newspaper column from 1926-1932.

After she lost the Department of Labor job in 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, Georgia Douglas Johnson worked as a teacher, librarian, and file clerk in the 1930s and 1940s. She found it difficult to get published. Her anti-lynching writings of the 1920s and 1930s were mostly not published at the time; some have been lost.

During World War II she published poems and read some on radio shows. In the 1950s she found it difficult to publish poems with a more political message. In 1965 Atlanta University awarded Georgia Douglas Johnson an honorary doctorate.

She saw to her sons' education; Henry Johnson, jr., completed Bowdoin College and then Howard University law school. Peter Johnson attended Dartmouth college and Howard University medical school.

Much of her unpublished work was lost, including many papers thrown away after her funeral.

Two of the anti-lynching plays by Georgia Douglas Johnson can be found here, with discussion questions: Antilynching Dramas

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