JOHNSON, JAMES WELDON Eleven years after its establishment, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named its first black Executive Secretary, James Weldon Johnson. Born in 1871, Johnson was poet, novelist, a lawyer and a lyricist. Collaborating with his composer brother, John, he wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is commonly referred to as the Negro National Anthem.
Early in the twentieth century, Johnson became interested in politics and actively campaigned for Theodore Roosevelt during the 1904 presidential campaign. Following Roosevelt's victory, Johnson was appointed American Consul at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, a position he held from 1906 to 1909. An effective diplomat, Johnson also served as American Consul at Corinto, Nicaragua between 1909-13. Upon his return to the United States, he became active in the recently established NAACP, serving as field secretary for the organization from 1916 until his appointment as Executive Secretary in 1920. Johnson served as Executive Secretary of the NAACP until 1931, when he resigned to join the faculty of Fisk University as professor of creative writing. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1938. See also: NAACP and NEGRO NATIONAL ANTHEM.