Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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James Weldon Johnson Character Analysis

James Weldon Johnson becomes the first Black executive secretary of the NAACP in 1920; with his associate Walter White, he brought the Sweet case to national attention as part of an effort to raise money for the NAACP’s legal defense fund and to address the rising issue of housing segregation in the 1920s. Johnson is an accomplished member of the talented tenth; prior to his work with the NAACP, he established the first Black daily newspaper in the United States, became the first Black lawyer admitted to the Florida bar, founded Florida’s first Black high school, wrote poetry and operas in his spare time, and represented the United States on the consular service in Venezuela and Nicaragua. He retired from his role with the NAACP in 1929 and became a professor of literature at Fisk University.

James Weldon Johnson Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by James Weldon Johnson or refer to James Weldon Johnson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
).
Chapter 3 Quotes

Violence finally ended on the fourth day […President] Wilson ordered two thousand federal troops into the capital to secure the streets. And a furious rainstorm drove both whites and blacks indoors. Negro spokesmen insisted, however, that neither federal action nor a fortuitous turn in the weather had quelled the attack. James Weldon Johnson […] arrived in the city just as the soldiers were taking up positions. “The Negroes themselves saved Washington by their determination not to run, but to fight,” he concluded after two days of consultation and investigation, “fight in defense of their lives and their homes. If the white mob had gone on unchecked—and it was only the determined effort of black men that checked it—Washington should have been another and worse East St. Louis.”

Related Characters: James Weldon Johnson (speaker), Ossian Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 96-97
Explanation and Analysis:
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James Weldon Johnson Character Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the character James Weldon Johnson appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
As soon as James Weldon Johnson, the executive secretary of the NAACP, sees the Sweets’ story in the newspapers, he grasps... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Johnson is a remarkable man. Poised, elegant, and politic, his pride and carriage developed out of... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
The Sweets’ case exemplifies increasing housing segregation, especially in the North. Even Johnson’s beloved Harlem neighborhood owes its existence to housing discrimination. The NAACP has been mounting legal... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
But Johnson’s fundraising efforts face an uphill battle: the white press largely ignores the NAACP, and Black... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
When Walter White isn’t occupied with his work as Johnson’s second-in-command at the NAACP, he rubs elbows with American literary elites. Although he is mixed... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
While Walter White fumes over Rowlette’s impertinence, James Johnson starts fundraising. News of the Sweets’ arrest spreads through the national Black press, carefully spun... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
By telegram, James Weldon Johnson reaches out to gauge Clarence Darrow’s interest in joining the case, only to find out... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
James Weldon Johnson and Walter White don’t worry about Darrow’s spotty legal record—many of his clients have still... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
While Johnson tries to wrangle the necessary funding money to hire Darrow and Hays from the NAACP’s... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...Sweet trial ends, the NAACP holds its annual convention in Chicago’s South Side. James Weldon Johnson celebrates the promise of the now fully funded Legal Defense Fund; W. E. B. Du... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...a portion of his lecture fees to the organization as well as regularly consulting with Johnson and White and contributing his writing to the NAACP’s Crisis magazine. He even joins the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
James Weldon Johnson steps away from NAACP leadership to protect his health in 1929, and Walter White succeeds... (full context)