Grace <I>Nail</I> Johnson

Photo added by Donna

Grace Nail Johnson

  • Birth 1885
  • Death 1976
  • Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
  • Memorial ID 33095854

Grace Nail Johnson is best known as the wife of poet, essayist, and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. She was, however, a powerful and influential advocate for social change in her own right. Like her husband, Johnson was committed to encouraging African-American writers and artists and to supporting research in African-American culture.

Grace Nail, the daughter of a wealthy and well-respected New York family, met her future husband when she was a teenager. Fifteen years her senior, James Weldon Johnson was then living in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, as the United States consul; they met when Johnson made a brief visit to New York City. Johnson courted Grace Nail from Puerto Cabello and later from Corinto, Nicaragua, where he became consul in 1908. After they married in New York in 1910, Grace Neil (sic) Johnson joined her husband in Nicaragua. The people of Corinto welcomed Grace Johnson with an unusual gift—a yellow parrot named LuLu. When she returned to the United States, Johnson took the bird with her and she kept the pet for the rest of her life. LuLu, in fact, outlived Johnson by some twenty years.

When they returned to New York, the Johnson's moved to Harlem, where they became central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Grace Johnson was one of the most celebrated hostesses of the time, entertaining the African-American political and artistic elite. In addition, Mrs. Johnson worked in support of a number of important civil rights groups, fighting for equal job opportunities for men and women of color, and for equal pay for African-American workers, most of whom then made significantly less than their white counterparts in the same fields. As a result of her valuable work, her high profile, and her generous spirit, Johnson became a mentor to many younger African-American women.

When James Weldon Johnson was killed in a car accident in 1938, Grace Johnson continued to promote the ideal of social justice to which he had dedicated his life. As a result of her work, many schools, community centers, and housing complexes bear his name.

from Yale Bio

Family Members






  • Created by: Donna
  • Added: 21 Jan 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 33095854
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Grace Nail Johnson (1885–1976), Find A Grave Memorial no. 33095854, citing Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Donna (contributor 46910450) .