Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A collection of quotes by James Weldon Johnson on writing, poetry, poems, childhood, life, lessons, memories, racism, passion, soul, poet and songs.

40 Notable Quotes By James Weldon Johnson That You Can’t Ignore

Quick Facts

Famous As: Author

Born On: June 17, 1871

Died On: June 26, 1938

Born In: Jacksonville, Florida

Died At Age: 67

James Weldon Johnson was a reputed American author, diplomat, songwriter and civil rights activist. His notable works include treatise such as ‘Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing’, ‘God’s Trombones’, ‘Along This Way’ and ‘The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man’. This legendary author was also the spearhead of the ‘National Association’ for the ‘Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)’. He was the first African-American to be elected as the secretary of the organization. Under the rule of President Theodore Roosevelt, he worked as a U.S consul in Nicaragua and Venezuela. He was also the first Black professor to work at the New York University. He continued to share his vast knowledge at the Fisk University as a lecturer of creative literature and writing. He received honorary doctorates from prestigious institutes such as Atlanta University, Talladega College and Howard University. Additionally, he received honors of ‘Harmon Gold Award’, ‘Spingarn Medal’ and ‘W.E.B. Du Bois Prize’ for Negro Literature. Here are some of the most intriguing quotes from this legendary African-American author that will give you a glimpse of his mind. Following are the most frequently quoted quotes and thoughts by James Weldon Johnson which have been excerpted from the vast sea of his work and life.

Lift every voice and sing.

James Weldon Johnson

In Berlin I especially enjoyed the orchestral concerts, and I attended a large number of them. I formed the acquaintance of a good many musicians, several of whom spoke of my playing in high terms.

James Weldon Johnson

I do not see how a people that can find in its conscience any excuse whatever for slowly burning to death a human being, or for tolerating such an act, can be entrusted with the salvation of a race.

James Weldon Johnson

She was my first love, and I loved her as only a boy loves.

James Weldon Johnson

I had enjoyed life in Paris, and, taking all things into consideration, enjoyed it wholesomely.

James Weldon Johnson

Young man, young man, your arm's too short to box with God.

James Weldon Johnson

The Southern whites are in many respects a great people. Looked at from a certain point of view, they are picturesque. If one will put oneself in a romantic frame of mind, one can admire their notions of chivalry and bravery and justice.

James Weldon Johnson

It is a struggle; for though the black man fights passively, he nevertheless fights; and his passive resistance is more effective at present than active resistance could possibly be. He bears the fury of the storm as does the willow tree.

James Weldon Johnson

As yet, the Negroes themselves do not fully appreciate these old slave songs.

James Weldon Johnson

Through my music teaching and my not absolutely irregular attendance at church, I became acquainted with the best class of colored people in Jacksonville.

James Weldon Johnson

Northern white people love the Negro in a sort of abstract way, as a race; through a sense of justice, charity, and philanthropy, they will liberally assist in his elevation.

James Weldon Johnson

My mother was kept very busy with her sewing; sometimes she would have another woman helping her.

James Weldon Johnson

Labor is the fabled magician's wand, the philosophers stone, and the cap of good fortune.

James Weldon Johnson

When we arrived in London, my sadness at leaving Paris was turned into despair. After my long stay in the French capital, huge, ponderous, massive London seemed to me as ugly a thing as man could contrive to make.

James Weldon Johnson

Washington shows the Negro not only at his best, but also at his worst.

James Weldon Johnson

The battle was first waged over the right of the Negro to be classed as a human being with a soul; later, as to whether he had sufficient intellect to master even the rudiments of learning; and today it is being fought out over his social recognition.

James Weldon Johnson

Amsterdam was a great surprise to me. I had always thought of Venice as the city of canals; it had never entered my mind that I should find similar conditions in a Dutch town.

James Weldon Johnson

There are a great many colored people who are ashamed of the cake-walk, but I think they ought to be proud of it.

James Weldon Johnson

The peculiar fascination which the South held over my imagination and my limited capital decided me in favor of Atlanta University; so about the last of September I bade farewell to the friends and scenes of my boyhood and boarded a train for the South.

James Weldon Johnson

Southern white people despise the Negro as a race, and will do nothing to aid in his elevation as such; but for certain individuals they have a strong affection, and are helpful to them in many ways.

James Weldon Johnson

Shortly after this I was made a member of the boys' choir, it being found that I possessed a clear, strong soprano voice. I enjoyed the singing very much.

James Weldon Johnson

My luck at the gambling table was varied; sometimes I was fifty to a hundred dollars ahead, and at other times I had to borrow money from my fellow workmen to settle my room rent and pay for my meals.

James Weldon Johnson

My appearance was always good and my ability to play on the piano, especially ragtime, which was then at the height of its vogue, made me a welcome guest.

James Weldon Johnson

I thought of Paris as a beauty spot on the face of the earth, and of London as a big freckle.

James Weldon Johnson

But I must own that I also felt stirred by an unselfish desire to voice all the joys and sorrows, the hopes and ambitions, of the American Negro, in classic musical form.

James Weldon Johnson

As I look back now I can see that I was a perfect little aristocrat.

James Weldon Johnson

And so for a couple of years my life was divided between my music and my school books.

James Weldon Johnson

Americans are immensely popular in Paris; and this is not due solely to the fact that they spend lots of money there, for they spend just as much or more in London, and in the latter city they are merely tolerated because they do spend.

James Weldon Johnson

It is from the blues that all that may be called American music derives its most distinctive character.

James Weldon Johnson

And God stepped out on space, and He looked around and said: I'm lonely - I'll make me a world.

James Weldon Johnson

It is strange how in some things honest people can be dishonest without the slightest compunction.

James Weldon Johnson

It’s no disgrace to be black, but it’s often very inconvenient.

James Weldon Johnson

I believe it to be a fact that the colored people of this country know and understand the white people better than the white people know and understand them.

James Weldon Johnson

Every race and every nation should be judged by the best it has been able to produce, not by the worst.

James Weldon Johnson

Any musical person who has never heard a Negro congregation under the spell of religious fervor sing these old songs has missed one of the most thrilling emotions which the human heart may experience.

James Weldon Johnson

You are young, gifted, and Black. We must begin to tell our young, There's a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that's just begun.

James Weldon Johnson

For days I could talk of nothing else with my mother except my ambitions to be a great man, a great colored man, to reflect credit on the race and gain fame for myself.

James Weldon Johnson

I felt leap within me pride that I was colored; and I began to form wild dreams of bringing glory and honor to the Negro race.

James Weldon Johnson

O black and unknown bards of long ago, How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?

James Weldon Johnson

Music is a universal art; anybody's music belongs to everybody; you can't limit it to race or country.

James Weldon Johnson