The writer Charles Johnson once wrote that his forbear James Weldon Johnson (no relation) had a life story that read like “the biography of two or three men.” Indeed, the earlier Johnson was an activist, attorney, administrator, educator, songwriter, poet, politician, ambassador and novelist. Perhaps Johnson is best known for penning the lyrics to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which the NAACP has adopted as its anthem. Every so often we dedicate an episode of Cover to Cover to an important Southern writer outside of the contemporary realm. James Weldon Johnson is just such a writer, and we are delighted to turn our focus toward his work this Sunday evening.
For that purpose we welcome to the show Dr. Rudolph P. Byrd. In addition to serving as the Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies at Emory University, Dr. Byrd is also the driving force behind the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory. Essentially, the JWJI is an administrative outlet promoting scholarship and research. Dr. Byrd has written and edited many books, including The Essential Writings of James Weldon Johnson, which was published by Random House in late 2008.
Dr. Byrd is the perfect man to lead the JWJI and to write about Johnson. His own scholarship pushes and promotes literature into the realms of social and economic justice, breathing new life into both celebrated and forgotten texts.
For more on the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University, please visit its website at: http://www.jamesweldonjohnson.emory.edu/
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