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Georgia Douglas Johnson

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Georgia Douglas Johnson

Georgia Douglas Johnson

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Overview

When Georgia Douglas Johnson published her collection of poetry, Autumn Love Cycle in 1927, she became the first African-American female poet to gain national attention since Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

Published Works

  • The Heart of a Woman,1918
  • Bronze, 1922
  • An Autumn Love Cycle, 1928
  • Share My World, 1962

Early Life and Education

Douglas Johnson was born in Atlanta yet the date of her birth is unknown. Her mother, Laura Douglas, was of African and Native American descent. Her father, George Camp, was of African-American and European descent. Douglas Johnson attended school in Atlanta as well as Rome, Ga. At a young age, she became a self-taught violinist.

In 1896, Johnson graduated from Atlanta University's Normal School and began teaching in Marietta, Ga. Soon after, she worked as an assistant principal in Atlanta. From 1902 to 1903, Douglass Johnson attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she developed her voice, harmonizing and piano.

Marriage and Family Life

In September of 1903, Johnson married Henry Lincoln Johnson. Johnson was a prominent lawyer in Atlanta and member of the Republican party. The couple had two sons, Henry Lincoln Johnson Jr. and Peter Douglas Johnson.

In 1910, Johnson's husband was appointed as the Recorder of Deeds for president William H. Taft. As a result, the family moved to Washington D.C.

Writing Career

Johnson began writing poems and stories after moving to Washington D.C. In 1916, Johnson's first poem was published. Two years later, Johnson published her first volume of poetry The Heart of a Woman. During this time, Johnson also wrote and taught music for her church.

When Johnson's husband died in 1925, she worked several temporary jobs including a substitute public school teacher and file clerk. Soon after, Johnson accepted a position as the Commissioner of Conciliation in the Department of Labor. She also began hosting "Saturday Salons" for fellow writers. Writers such as Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer and Jessie Redmon Fauset, Alain Locke, Anne Spencer and many other writers of the Harlem Renaissance. These weekly events would last more than forty years and would become a place where writers could "freely discuss politics and personal opinions."

Throughout the 1920s, Johnson delivered speeches and readings of her works. During this time, she met with writers Charles Chestnutt and Carl Sandburg. Johnson was the recipient of several awards including one from Atlanta University. Her work as a writer and hosting salon events allowed Johnson to send her sons to Howard University, where they were able to study law and medicine.

Literary critic and historian Gloria Hull discovered that Johnson wrote several plays during the Harlem Renaissance . One play, Plumes won first prize in a contest sponsored by Opportunity literary magazine in 1927. Another play, Blue Blood was performed by the Krigway Players in 1926. An estimated twenty-eight dramas were written by Johnson yet Hull has only been able to recover a select few. Johnson also wrote a novel about her salon, a collection of short stories. However, all were lost. Yet, three short stories have been located. Johnson also published under the pseudonym Paul Tremaine and were published in the literary journal Challenge between 1936 and 1937.

In addition to writing poetry, short stories and plays, Johnson also wrote a weekly newspaper column. Entitled Homely Philosophy, the column was syndicated by twenty news publications between 1926 and 1932. Johnson also collaborated on a composition with Lillian Evanti in the late 1940s. From 1930 to 1965, Johnson established and ran an international correspondence club.

When Johnson lost her job with the Department of Labor in 1934, she had to stop writing as frequently. She took odd jobs including clerical jobs and continued to apply for fellowships that would allow Johnson to develop her craft as a writer.

By the late 1960s, Johnson was living with her son, Henry Lincoln Jr. and his family. However, Johnson did not lose her interest or enthusiasm for the arts. She continued to help artists in need of a home. Most notably, Johnson provided a home to Zora Neale Hurston.
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