James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his leadership within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917, being chosen as the first black executive secretary of the organization, effectively the operating officer. He served in that position from 1920 to 1930. He was first known for his writing, which includes poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture. He was the first African-American professor at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University.