Johnson, J. Rosamond (John Rosamond), 1873-1954

Alternative names
Birth 1873-08-11
Death 1954-11-11

Biographical notes:

American composer and singer, brother of James Weldon Johnson, known for composing the music to "Lift every voice and sing" for which his brother wrote the lyrics.

From the description of Letter of J. Rosamond Johnson to A.J. Hanna, 1944 February 20. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 70259141

Black American composer, singer, and stage performer.

From the description of The J. Rosamond Johnson papers, 1879-1975 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702190373

From the description of The John Rosamond Johnson papers, 1879-1975 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 122548810

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.

1873 Born 1873 August 11 1877 Piano lessons with mothe begin 1890 To New England Conservatory, Boston 1896 In Oriental America 1896 Supervisor of Music, Jacksonville public schools, 1896-1899 1900 Writes "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" with brother James Weldon, while in Jacksonville. 1901 Cole and Johnson Bros. formed, 1901-1908 1902 "Under the bamboo tree" 1903 Evolution of Ragtime 1904 Campaign song for Roosevelt, "You're all right Teddy" 1906 Shoo-fly Regiment 1906 James Weldon Johnson becomes U.S. consul at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. 1909 Mr. Lode of Koal with Bert Williams 1910 Bob Cole drowns, suicide? 1912 In the vaudevill circuit with Charles Hart 1912 Director of Oscar Hammerstein's London Opera House 1913 Married to Nora Ethel Floyd 1914 ASCAP formed; 170 members, 6 were black. Rosamond and his brother Jim were among those 6 1914 Returns to the U.S.A. to the New Standard Theatre in Philadelphia 1914 Music Director and trustee at the Music School Settlement for Colored People in New York, 1914-1918 1917 Back with the Orpheum and Keith circuits with the "Rosamond Johnson Quintet" 1918 Becomes 2nd Lieutnant, 15th Infantry, National Guard 1921 Made sub-chief of the Iroquois at Caughawaga, Province of Quebec, Canada 1925 The Book of American Negro Spirituals 1925 Toured with Taylor Gordon, 1925-1926 1926 The Second Book of American Negro Spirituals 1929 Jazz, motion picture including the John Rosamond Johnson Singers 1933 Joe Laurie, Jr.'s, "Memory Lane" review 1935 Plays Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess 1936 Lew Leslie's Blackbirds review, Great Britan tour, 1936-1937 1937 Rolling Along in Song 1939 Plays the Reverend Quintus Whaley in Mamba's Daughters, 1939-1941 1940 Plays Brother Green and directs the J. Rosamond Johnson Singers in Cabin in the Sky 1942 Plays Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess, 1942-1943 1946 Plays Prof. Arnold Harmon in A Young American 1954 Dies 1954 November 11

From the guide to the The J. Rosamond Johnson Papers, 1879-1975 (inclusive), (Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University)

Biographical notes are generated from the bibliographic and archival source records supplied by data contributors.


Loading Relationships

Constellation Information



  • Musicals--Excerpts.
  • Music--20th century
  • African American composers--Correspondence
  • Music--United States--19th century.
  • Vaudeville--United States.
  • African Americans--Music
  • Vaudeville
  • Popular music--1921-1930
  • Songs
  • Musicals--Excerpts
  • Music--United States--20th century.
  • Afro-American composers--Diaries.
  • Spirituals (Songs)
  • Music--19th century
  • Songs.
  • Music--Manuscripts
  • Spirituals (Songs).
  • African American composers--Diaries
  • Songs (Medium voice) with piano
  • Songs (High voice) with piano
  • Musical revues, comedies, etc.--Excerpts
  • Afro-American composers--Correspondence.


  • Arrangers.


  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)