”Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson In An Age of Empire”

“Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire” on view at Emory University Stuart A. Rose Library

EDIT: After further research, “Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire” closed December 12, 2019 (via Stuart A. Rose website). It may be a good idea to call and confirm with Stuart A. Rose Archive personnel.

Raise your hand if you’re a geek for archive exhibits!

Here’s a beautiful one, “Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire.” Curated by Kali-Ahset Amen, who Johns Hopkins University describes as an ”interdisciplinary social scientist, exhibition curator, and organizational strategist.” Amen is an assistant research professor of Sociology and has held the position of assistant director of the Billie Holiday Project for Liberation Arts and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race, at Johns Hopkins University and Emory University, respectively. Atlanta and those visiting Atlanta should experience Amen’s curatorial work, ”Black Cosmopolitan” which is currently on view at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. Check the Robert W. Woodruff Library website for visitors’ hours.

(left to right) Panelists Dr. Dwight Andrews, Emory University; Dr. Noelle Morrissette, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Dr. Jelani Cobb, Columbia University; Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen, Johns Hopkins University

I attended a recent James Weldon Johnson Institute Dialogues in Race and Difference discussion in which panelists interpreted themes found in the ”Black Cosmopolitan” exhibit. Panelists engaged the room on the depth of James Weldon Johnson’s life and work. Johnson is most notably known for co-writing what many refer to as the Black national anthem, ”Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” He wrote it with his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson.

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Johnson as a US Consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua. He served from 1906 to 1913. Johnson was a political agitator on behalf of the NAACP. He took on an activist role while researching and writing in Haiti. Johnson wrote ”The Truth About Haiti: An NAACP Investigation, ” and ”Self Determining Haiti.”

Born and raised in multi-cultural Jacksonville, Florida, Johnson would dedicate his life studying, educating, inspiring the African Diaspora. Johnson’s creative and intellectual work took him from participating in the Harlem Renaissance to becoming the Spence Chair of Creative Literature at Fisk University, and so much more in between.

“Black Cosmopolitan,” curated by Kali-Ahset Amen, illustrates “Johnson’s early life, his political appointment in the U.S. consular service, and the transnational dimensions of his advocacy for black freedom at home and abroad.”

Log onto the Stuart A. Rose Library website for information on “Black Cosmopolitan” and other featured exhibits.

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