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Series I: Correspondence, 1896-1972

Call Number: JWJ MSS 49, Series I


  • 1896-1972


Language of Materials

From the Collection:

Chiefly in English; some materials in Spanish and French.

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection:

The materials are open for research.

Box 116 (audiovisual materials): Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Box 155 (Legal and financial records): Temporarily restricted. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Box 156: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.


The series is organized into four subseries: James Weldon Johnson Correspondence; Grace Nail Johnson Correspondence; Family Correspondence; and Ollie Jewell Sims Okala Correspondence. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of the writer or addressee of the letter.

James Weldon Johnson had a long and unique career. For most of his life he was at or near the center of African-American political and cultural activities in the United States, and he counted among his friends and associates many leading blacks and whites who were involved in issues of race relations. His brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, was an important musical comedy performer, appearing in both the United States and Europe, and John B. Nail and John E. Nail, his father-in-law and brother-in-law, were leaders in the social and business life of Harlem. Thus the Johnson correspondence is an important source for African-American history in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Johnson's interests and activities were centered in three principal areas: black literature and music, the political and social advancement of blacks, and education. The correspondence in the Johnson Papers touches most frequently on some aspect of one of these subjects, but also often refers to other facets of African-American life.

Ollie Jewell Sims Okala's correspondence reflects both her personal and professional life including her relationship with the Johnsons and responsibility for managing the James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson Estate following their deaths.

It should be noted that folders in the correspondence series do not contain correspondence exclusively. Some folders also contain memoranda, clippings, press releases and other material. In some cases a folder contains only noncorrespondence material; this is indicated by a dash in the "to/from" column.

N.B. For a more detailed analysis of the subject content of the correspondence see the subject guide in Appendix B. This subject guide was created in 1973 and has been retained for reference.


18.14 Linear Feet (46 boxes)

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Access Information

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