Georgia Douglas Johnson contributed more than 200 poems, 40 plays, and 30 songs to the literary world during the Harlem Renaissance as a poet, playwright and journalist.
Her world began on September 10, 1880 when she was born as Georgia Blanche Camp to George Camp and Laura Douglass in Atlanta, Georgia. She continued her parents’ lineage with her combined African American, Native American, and English heritages.
She graduated from Atlanta University Normal College and taught public school education in Atlanta, later becoming an assistant school principal. She also studied music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland College of Music.
In 1903, she married Henry Lincoln Johnson and dropped her birth father’s last name, replacing her middle name with “Douglas”, a shortened version of her mother’s maiden name. Her husband’s political career led to a presidential appointment to the position of recorder of deeds. Hence, by 1912, the Johnson family, consisting of two male children, relocated to the Washington, DC area.
While in DC three of her poems were published in Crisis, a NAACP publication, in 1916. She was thirty-six at the time. Two years later, Douglas Johnson’s first poetry collection, The Heart of a Woman was published. It is a 62-page collection, filled with the pain of the constraints Douglas Johnson experienced in her world as a woman. In 1922, Bronze her second poetry collection was published and which she distinguished from her first collection by describing it as “entirely racial.”
During this time period, Douglas Johnson hosted weekly Saturday night gatherings at her home for her and fellow Black writers to encourage each other to work on their craft. The attendees, affectionately known as the “Saturday Nighters”, included well-known Black writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Dubois, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and more. Thus, although Douglas Johnson was never physically located in Harlem, the heart of the burgeoning literary communities that became the artists of the Harlem Renaissance, she had created her own world in Washington, DC.
This world helped sustain her despite the trauma of her husband passing away in 1925. She continued to raise her two sons, host the Saturday Nighters, and pursue her writing career.
In addition to being a successfully published poet, Douglas Johnson was also a successful playwright, published a syndicated newspaper column, and wrote short stories. Her last poetry collection was self-published in 1962 and entitled Share My World. Indeed, she had a world of experience and perspective to share with her readers through her vast volume of writing.
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