Reading Comprehension #2 James Weldon Johnson

JOHNSON'S EARLY YEARS
Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1871. His father was a waiter and his mother was a teacher who helped him learn to read. She also taught him all about music. Johnson liked to learn.

GOING TO SCHOOL
Back then, all children could not go to the same schools. Johnson went to the Stanton school, a school for African Americans where his mother taught. The Stanton school only went up to grade 8. Johnson wanted to go to high school, but there was no high school for African Americans in Florida at that time.

Johnson's parents decided to send him to a high school in Atlanta, Georgia. Johnson stayed in Atlanta and went to college there, too. When he was 25 years old, Johnson graduated from Atlanta University. Then he came home to Jacksonville.

He got a job as the principal of the Stanton school. He made the Stanton school grades 1-12. African-American students in Jacksonville could now get a high school diploma without having to travel to another state.

THE FIRST BLACK LAWYER
But there is more! Johnson also went to law school. Soon, he became the first black lawyer in Florida. Johnson was a writer, too. He wrote stories and poems. Many people read what he wrote and liked it a lot. In 1900, he wrote a poem called "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Johnson's brother John made the poem into a song, which soon became very popular among African Americans. The Johnson brothers wrote over 200 songs together. Many of these songs were used in big plays.

James Weldon Johnson helped people in other ways, too. Johnson was good at getting people to work for the good of everyone. Then people could get more done. He used his talent to start a new group for African Americans. He fought for equal rights for all people. He taught African Americans to hold on to their past while getting ahead in the world today.

James Weldon Johnson was a great man who devoted his life to helping others throughout the United States.

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Mandarin High School
Jacksonville, Florida

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