Georgia Douglas Johnson

October 15, 2006


Best-known woman poet of the Harlem Renaissance
Poems suggest a feminine sensibility and a feminist awareness, and take up challenges and aspirations of the African-American community
Born in Atlanta, studied at Atlanta University and Oberlin College
Married Henry Lincoln Johnson, an African-American lawyer and politician who died in 1925
Worked clerical jobs in Washington, D.C. to support her two sons who went on to law and medical school
Wrote stories, plays, and a weekly column
Early poetry draws comparisons with personal lyrics of Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and later poetry attempts to deeply connect issues of the Harlem Renaissance


The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn, / As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on, / Afar o’er life’s turrents and vales does it roam / In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.
The heart of a woman falls back with the night, / And enters some alien cate in its plight, / And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars / While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

-The Heart of a Woman (in whole)

Reflects the frustrations Johnson observed and felt in domestic life
Her husband disapproved of his wife’s poetic aspirations
Plumbs the anguish of a woman trapped in traditional marital and child-bearing roles
Metaphor of broken and caged bird echoes Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem ‘Sympathy’


One Response to “Georgia Douglas Johnson”

  1. Britteny Says:

    Educated in the public schools of Atlanta, Georgia, she then taught there for about 10 years after graduation.  Music seems to have always been an important part of her life (she taught herself to play the violin and she played organ in her church),
    so after years of teaching, she went on to formally study music (taking courses in harmony, violin, voice and piano) at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland College of Music, both in Ohio.  Several sources also report that she studied music at Howard University in Washington, DC. Douglas Johnson died in her home at 1461 S Street NW on May 14, 1966.

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