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Fri, 09.10.1880

Georgia Douglas Johnson, poet and playwright of Harlem Renaissance

Georgia D. Johnson, 1918

This date marks the birth of Georgia Douglas Johnson in 1880. She was an African American poet and early pioneer in Black literature.

Georgia Douglas Camp was born in Marietta, GA. Her father was a wealthy Englishman of whom she knew very little. She attended Atlanta University and later worked as an assistant principal in Atlanta. In the late 1900s, she studied music at Oberlin in Ohio.

She was married in 1903 to Henry Lincoln (Link) Johnson and the couple had two sons, Henry Lincoln, Jr., and Peter Douglas. The family moved to Washington, D.C., where Link established a law practice.

In 1910, Georgia moved to Washington, D.C., where her home became the site of a weekly gathering known as the "S Street Salon" where many prominent writers of the Harlem Renaissance introduced new material. These writers included Mary P. Burrill, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, and Langston Hughes, as well as Angelina Weld Grimke.

After her husband died in 1925, she had no choice but to seek employment to maintain the household and rear her two sons. Mrs. Johnson was conciliator for the Labor Department for eight years (1925-1934). Although working full-time, she continued to feverishly produce literary works and maintain a column for 20 weekly newspapers. Throughout her career she wrote poetry incessantly, edited close to 100 books, wrote over 40 plays and 30 songs, but only five of those plays were ever published and three produced.

In addition to writing plays, Johnson was a prolific poet. Blue Blood 1926 Staged in New York City. Plumes1927 A play about poor rural blacks won first prize in the Opportunity competition. Blue Blood, Opportunity contest finalist was one of the four best plays of 1926. She died in May 1966.

One of her poems, “I Want to Die While You Love Me,” was read at her funeral.

The Oxford Companion to African American Literature.
Ed. William L. Andrews,
Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris.
Oxford University Press
Copyright © 1997

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

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