Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire

Curated by Kali-Ahset Aman

As an early 20th-century American public intellectual, James Weldon Johnson influenced the worlds of literature, music, diplomacy, and civil rights advocacy. Often remembered as a literary pioneer of the New Negro Era, Johnson’s roles as U.S. Consul to Venezuela (1906-1909) and Nicaragua (1909-1913) are frequently overlooked.

Yet, Johnson’s official diplomacy informed later achievements as a popular artist, press critic, and political agitator on behalf of the NAACP. Attending to this neglected facet of his life and legacy, "Black Cosmopolitan" examines 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.