James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and collections of folklore. He was also one of the first African-American professors at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University.
Johnson was a prominent figure of the latter part of the Harlem Renaissance, which marked a turning point for African American literature. Prior to this time, books by African-Americans were primarily read by other black people. With the renaissance, though, African-American literature—as well as black fine art and performance art—began to be absorbed into mainstream American culture.