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Series II: Writings, 1890-1974

Call Number: JWJ MSS 49, Series II

Scope and Contents

The series documents the breadth of James Weldon Johnson's writing career ranging from work written while he was a student at Atlanta University in the 1890s to his work on behalf of the N.A.A.C.P. and larger book length projects during the 1930s. The series also includes editions of Johnson's writings published following his death in 1938. Johnson's writings include a variety of genres and reflect his career as a professional author, editor, lyricist, diplomat, Executive Secretary for the N.A.A.C.P., and university professor. The Writings document various stages of Johnson's writing projects from early research and drafts to reviews of his published works. Johnson's notebooks and drafts provide insight into his creative process and, combined with his background materials, trace the nascent ideas behind various writing projects. The Writings also include proofs and published versions of Johnson's writings, often containing his notes and annotations.

Major Works consists of material relating to Johnson's book length manuscripts across various genres including poetry. Essays and Articles includes his work as a writer and editor for The New York Age as well as short pieces for other newspapers and magazines (such as The Crisis and The American Mercury). The subseries Single Poems contains individual poems some of which were published on their own and others that were published as part of Johnson's book-length poetry compilations. Johnson's work as a lyricist is documented in both Dramatic Works and Song Lyrics. In addition to operas and romantic comedies, the Dramatic Works subseries also demonstrates Johnson's work on playscripts for various dramas. Johnson's lecture tours and speaking engagements are documented in Addresses and Publicity. Johnson's teaching career at Fisk University and New York University is reflected in Teaching Materials, which contains lecture notes and other course-related material. The subseries Broadcasts and Interviews contains drafts and scripts relating to Johnson's appearances on the radio. Reviews consists of Johnson's critiques of other's writings (reviews of Johnson's own writing are located with the particular piece under review). Johnson's translation projects (such as Goyescas) are found in Translations (translations of Johnson's work, like reviews, are located with the writing translated). Johnson's holograph notebooks contain ideas and early drafts for various writings and like material in Other Writings contains Johnson's notes and drafts for some undeveloped compositions. Other Writings contains Johnson's report on Haiti for the N.A.A.C.P. as well as notes for various writing projects.


  • 1890-1974

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 fourteen subseries: Major Works, Essays and Articles, Single Poems, Song Lyrics, Dramatic Works, Addresses, Teaching Materials, Broadcasts and Interviews, Reviews, Translations, Notebooks, Other Writings, Publicity, and Writings of Others.


22.18 Linear Feet (43 boxes)


Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
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New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.