Lift Every Voice and Sing
DescriptionThis selection of more than forty poems from a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance includes both uncompromising indictments of racial injustice and celebrations of the triumphs of African-Americans. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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About the Author
James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an African American writer and civil rights activist. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, he obtained an education from a young age, first by his mother, a musician and teacher, and then at the Edwin M. Stanton School. In 1894, he graduated from Atlanta University, a historically Black college known for its rigorous classical curriculum. With his brother Rosamond, he moved to New York City, where they excelled as songwriters for Broadway. His poem "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" (1899), set to music by Rosamond, eventually became known as the "Negro National Anthem." Over the next several decades, he dedicated himself to education, activism, and diplomacy. From 1906 to 1913, he worked as a United States Consul, first in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, and then in Nicaragua. He married Grace Nail, an activist and artist, in 1910, and would return to New York with her following the end of his diplomatic career. While in Nicaragua, he wrote and anonymously published The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), a novel exploring the phenomenon of racial passing. In 1917, Johnson began his work with the NAACP, eventually rising to the role of executive secretary. He became known as a towering figure of the Harlem Renaissance, writing poems and novels as well as compiling such anthologies as The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922). For his contributions to African American culture as an artist and patron, his activism against lynching, and his pioneering work as the first African American professor at New York University, Johnson is considered one of twentieth century America's leading cultural figures.