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 Institute
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 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 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.
"Sence You Went Away" manuscript
"Since You Went Away" sheet music
When their father, James Johnson, died, the brothers wrote a song in his memory. The song was titled "Sence You Went Away."
"The Color Sergeant"
"Sonnet--Before a Painting"
Other poems written by James Weldon Johnson during this period include "The Color Sergeant" and "Sonnet--Before a Painting."