Georgia Douglas Johnson
Georgia Douglas Johnson (c.1880-1966) was a playwright, poet, journalist and musician. She began her professional life as a teacher, working in Atlanta schools for about 10 years after she graduated from college. She left teaching to study music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland College of Music in Ohio, taking classes in harmony, violin, voice and piano. After completing her studies, she returned to Atlanta and resumed her teaching career, working her way up to assistant principal.
In 1903, she married Henry Lincoln Johnson and in 1909 or 1910, they moved to Washington, D.C. for the sake of his budding political career There, Johnson met many of the leading African-American artists of the era, and she was inspired to write—an interest she had previously pursued only intermittently. In 1918, she published her first book of poems, The Heart of a Woman, whose searing lyricism reflected her frustrations at the racial and sexual prejudices of her era. With the publication of her second book of poetry, Bronze, in 1922, Johnson became the most widely published woman poet of the Harlem Renaissance, a nationwide movement to create new African-American art. In 1926, a year after the death of her husband, she began writing plays—showing a gift for poetic dialogue and rich characters. Scholar Gloria Hull notes that “she could have just as easily have come down through history predominantly as a playwright”—though sadly, most of Johnson’s plays were destroyed after her death, inadvertently thrown away by workers clearing her house.
In addition to plays and poetry, Johnson wrote short stories and weekly syndicated column. In 1960, six years before her death, she estimated that she had written over 200 poems, 31 short stories, and 28 plays.