The J. Rosamond Johnson Papers
Scope and Contents
The J. Rosamond Johnson Papers document Johnson's varied career as a composer, actor, vaudeville performer, and administrator. The Papers contain sketches, manuscript scores, and published editions of Johnson's musical compositions and arrangements. The correspondence includes letters to and from Johnson and family members, musicians, writers, and political figures. Johnson's life and work are further documented by: programs, newspaper clippings, and advertisements; diaries and scrapbooks; photographs; business and financial records; and miscellaneous items.
Researchers may also wish to consult the papers of Johnson's brother, James Weldon Johnson, at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. (Beinecke also has several other collections relating to the Johnsons.) Researchers interested in Rosamond Johnson's daughter, Mildred Louise Johnson Edwards, and her work with the Modern School may wish to consult The Modern School Collection at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as well as the Ethical Culture Fieldston School Records at the New-York Historical Society.
- 1879-1975 (inclusive)
Language of Materials
Materials chiefly in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment.
Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.
Conditions Governing Use
The J. Rosamond Johnson Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The J. Rosamond Johnson Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Johnson's daughter, Mildred Louise Johnson Edwards, in 1977. Series XXIV, Additions, consists of materials purchased from J. Rosamond Johnson’s great-granddaughter, Melanie Edwards, in 2011.
In 24 Series as follows: I. Correspondence. II. Programs. III. Newspaper Clippings. IV. Advertisements. V. Biographical Notes. VI. Diaries. VII. Documents. VIII. Business and Calling Cards, etc. IX. Rules and Regulations for Professional Organizations. X. Books. XI. Photographs. XII. Items Transferred to Other Collections. XIII. Miscellaneous Items. XIV. Lyrics. XV. Vaudeville Sketches, etc. XVI. Radio Sketches? XVII. Poetry. XVIII. List of Music, etc. XIX. Musical Works by Johnson. XX. Musical Works Arranged or Edited by Johnson. XXI. Microfilm of Johnson's Works. XXII. Indices By Show. XXIII. Musical Works by Others. XXIV. Additions
8 Linear Feet (9 boxes)
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
Music, correspondence and other papers, photographs, and additional materials by and about the African-American musician, writer, actor, and educator J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954).
Biographical / Historical
John Rosamond Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on August 11, 1873. He was a composer, pianist, actor, singer, lyricist, author, and educator. Rosamond began playing the piano at the age of four under the tutelage of his mother, Helen Louise Dillet Johnson. His musical training continued with enrollment at the New England Conservatory of Music and with special instruction in piano, organ, composition, and voice. He studied piano with Charles Dennée and Mme. Dietrich Strong, organ with George Whiting, harmony with Carl Reissman and Davenport Kerrison, and voice with William and Clarence B. Ashenden. He also received an honorary M.A. from Atlanta University in 1917.
Rosamond collaborated with his brother James Weldon Johnson and with Bob Cole on more than 200 songs during their seven years of existence as the Cole and Johnson Brothers. Songs such as "Under the Bamboo Tree," "The Maiden with the Dreamy Eyes," "Congo Love Song," and "My Castle on the Nile," were interpolated into several shows and sung by such people as Bert Williams, Anna Held, Marie Cahill, and Lillian Russell. Rosamond and his brother James Weldon composed and wrote the lyrics to "Lift Every Voice and Sing," considered to be the "black national anthem." Rosamond is also the author of two books containing his arrangements of spirituals, which he popularized in his recitals with Taylor Gordon in 1925/1926.
Rosamond appeared in vaudeville with various circuits, and in 1933 he, as well as W.C. Handy, returned in Joe Laurie, Jr.'s, "Memory Lane" review. His acting career sky-rocketed in the 30s and 40s with roles in Porgy and Bess, Mamba's Daughters, Cabin in the Sky, and A Young American.
Johnson held two administrative positions in educational institutions. He was Supervisor of Music in the Jacksonville public schools from 1896 to 1898 and was the Music Director and a trustee at the Music School Settlement for Colored People in New York from 1914 to 1918.
- Born 1873 August 11
- Piano lessons with mother begin
- To New England Conservatory, Boston
- In Oriental America
- Supervisor of Music, Jacksonville public schools, 1896-1899
- Writes "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" with brother James Weldon, while in Jacksonville.
- Cole and Johnson Bros. formed, 1901-1908
- "Under the bamboo tree"
- Evolution of Ragtime
- Campaign song for Roosevelt, "You're all right Teddy"
- Shoo-fly Regiment
- James Weldon Johnson becomes U.S. consul at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela.
- Mr. Lode of Koal with Bert Williams
- Bob Cole drowns, suicide?
- In the vaudevill circuit with Charles Hart
- Director of Oscar Hammerstein's London Opera House
- Married to Nora Ethel Floyd
- ASCAP formed; 170 members, 6 were black. Rosamond and his brother Jim were among those 6
- Returns to the U.S.A. to the New Standard Theatre in Philadelphia
- Music Director and trustee at the Music School Settlement for Colored People in New York, 1914-1918
- Back with the Orpheum and Keith circuits with the "Rosamond Johnson Quintet"
- Becomes 2nd Lieutnant, 15th Infantry, National Guard
- Made sub-chief of the Iroquois at Caughawaga, Province of Quebec, Canada
- The Book of American Negro Spirituals
- Toured with Taylor Gordon, 1925-1926
- The Second Book of American Negro Spirituals
- Jazz, motion picture including the John Rosamond Johnson Singers
- Joe Laurie, Jr.'s, "Memory Lane" review
- Plays Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess
- Lew Leslie's Blackbirds review, Great Britan tour, 1936-1937
- Rolling Along in Song
- Plays the Reverend Quintus Whaley in Mamba's Daughters, 1939-1941
- Plays Brother Green and directs the J. Rosamond Johnson Singers in Cabin in the Sky
- Plays Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess, 1942-1943
- Plays Prof. Arnold Harmon in A Young American
- Dies 1954 November 11
- Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
- African American Composers -- Correspondence
- African American Composers -- Diaries
- Burleigh, H. T. (Harry Thacker), 1866-1949
- Dennée, Charles, 1863-1946
- Duke, Vernon, 1903-1969
- Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974
- Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958
- John Rosamond Johnson papers
- Johnson, J. Rosamond (John Rosamond), 1873-1954
- Johnson, Nora Ethel
- La Guardia, Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry), 1882-1947
- Marshall, Thurgood, 1908-1993
- Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965
- Mercer, Johnny, 1909-1976
- Music -- United States -- 19th century
- Music -- United States -- 20th Century
- Musicals -- Excerpts
- Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976
- Robinson, Bill, 1878-1949
- Romberg, Sigmund, 1887-1951
- Spirituals (Songs)
- Vallée, Rudy, 1901-1986
- Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964
- Vaudeville -- United States
- Waters, Ethel, 1896-1977
- Register to the J. Rosamond Johnson Papers
- Edited Full Draft
- Compiled by Adrienne Nesnow. Additions compiled by Emily Ferrigno.
- Description rules
- Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository
120 High Street
PO Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520 US