Grace Nail Johnson

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Grace Johnson (Nail)

Also Known As: "Grand Dame of Harlem"
Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: New London, Connecticut
Death: November 1, 1976 (91)
Harlem, New York, New York
Place of Burial: Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of John Bennett Nail and Mary Frances Nail
Wife of James Weldon Johnson
Sister of John Edward Nail and Frank Nail

Occupation: Social Activist
Managed by: Kenneth Kwame Welsh, (C)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Grace Nail Johnson

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 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

Created by: Donna Record added: Jan 21, 2009 Find A Grave Memorial# 33095854 Source: Grace Nail Johnson - Find A Grave


Guide to the James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson Papers

Extravagant Crowd: Grace Nail Johnson

Intimate Circles: Grace Nail Johnson

Grace Nail Johnson: A Remembrance

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Grace Nail Johnson's Timeline

February 27, 1885
New London, Connecticut
November 1, 1976
Age 91
New York, New York
Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, United States