Online Exhibits@Yale

Early Years

Helen Johnson mother of James and Rosamond Johnson

Helen Dillet Johnson

James Johnson father of James and Rosamond Johnson

James Johnson

James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871 and John Rosamond Johnson was born on August 11, 1873 in Jacksonville, Florida. Their parents were Helen Louise Dillet and James Johnson. James Johnson was born free in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in New York. He was a headwaiter at a luxury hotel in Jacksonville, Florida. Helen Dillet was from Nassau, Bahamas and was a teacher at Stanton Institute. She also taught the brothers music at an early age.

James Weldon Johnson as a student at Stanton school

James Weldon Johnson as a student at Stanton Institute

John Rosamond Johnson at Stanton school

John Rosamond Johnson at Stanton Institute

Both brothers attended Stanton Institute in Jacksonville, Florida where their mother was a teacher and James Weldon Johnson was later principal.

James Weldon Johnson portrait at Atlanta University

James Weldon Johnson as a student at Atlanta University (Now known as Clark-Atlanta University)

James Weldon Johnson attended Atlanta University at age 16 and graduated in 1894. He returned to Jacksonville and in addition to being an educator, he was a writer and founded The Daily American, the first daily black newspaper in the country. He also studied law and passed the entrance exam for the Florida State Bar in 1897. 

John Rosamond Johnson, Portrait taken in Boston.

John Rosamond Johnson as a student at the New England Conservatory

John Rosamond Johnson studied music at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts, with special instruction in piano, organ, composition, and voice. He was Supervisor of Music in the Jacksonville public schools from 1896 to 1898. 

Early Years