Great Barrington - The bed is disintegrating and there's a hole in the floor. The original windows have continued to break into bits over the years, and so now they're boarded up with Plexiglas. A tarp was installed on the roof.
But it wasn't always like this in the cabin on a hill next to the Alford Brook. In the 1920s and '30s, it was where civil rights giant, songwriter and poet James Weldon Johnson wrote a collection of spiritual prose and sought peace and inspiration.
Now Rufus Jones and Jill Rosenberg-Jones are trying to save and preserve the cabin where Johnson most notably wrote "God's Trombones," which works the rhythm of the African American preacher's sermon. Read More
Great Barrington - For several weeks each summer, five established, mid-career, and emerging artists are granted time and space to create works inspired by the values that James Weldon Johnson dedicated his life to: creative expression, social justice, civil rights, erudition, and community.
The James Weldon Johnson Foundation partnered with Bard College at Simon’s Rock for the second annual artist-in-residence program, which invites these artists to stay on the Simon’s Rock campus and use the College’s studio space. The artists also have access to Five Acres, James Weldon Johnson’s nearby home and writing cabin, where he wrote some of his most famous works, including God’s Trombones and his autobiography Along This Way.
The 2018 Fellows—Sonya Clark, Patrick Eugène, Douriean Fletcher, Kamil Peters, and Meclina Priestley—called the experience, and “place and space” at Five Acres and Simon’s Rock, “the magical place,” said Rufus Jones, co-founder and president of the Foundation. Read More
Great Barrington — Like his contemporary, W.E.B. Du Bois, the writer and educator James Weldon Johnson, best remembered for his leadership of the N.A.A.C.P., was a prominent historical figure with ties to Great Barrington.
As the town furthers its efforts to remember and honor Du Bois, the James Weldon Johnson Foundation is working to advance Johnson’s legacy through educational, intellectual, and artistic works that exemplify his contributions to American history and worldwide culture.
The foundation was established in 2016 by Jill Rosenberg Jones, executor of the James Weldon Johnson Literary Estate, and her husband Rufus Jones — who together in 2011 purchased the home that Johnson had owned in the 1930s, “Five Acres.” In partnership with Bard College at Simon’s Rock, the foundation launched an inaugural artist-in-residence program last summer that brought five visual artists to Great Barrington. Read More
The five artists selected to come to Great Barrington used the Berkshires as their inspiration to create new works in painting and found objects. During their residencies, which ranged from one to three weeks throughout the summer of 2017, the artists created new work in a studio space provided by Simon’s Rock, and were also given access to the former home and writing cabin of James Weldon Johnson, now owned by the Johnson Foundation, located next door to the Simon’s Rock campus on Alford Road. “The idea of creating an artist residency program was one of the best ways I could think of to honor and foster James Weldon Johnson’s legacy,” says the foundation’s chairperson and executor of Johnson’s literary estate, Jill Rosenberg Jones, “Partnering with Simon’s Rock has been the linchpin in making this dream come true.” Read More
GREAT BARRINGTON — Ten thousand marchers come down Fifth Avenue. They walk silently to the sound of a steady drum-beat. At the front, children six years old carry banners: "Give me a chance to live. Treat us so that we may love our country."
Ten thousand black American men, women and children walked silently through midtown. They were standing together after a widespread riot in St. Louis, after police shootings, fires, buildings looted and families forced out of their homes.
It could have happened last night. But the silent protest stepped off Saturday, July 28, 1917.
James Weldon Johnson described it in his memoir, "Along This Way," as he helped to plan it. In his lifetime he was a writer and politician with influence from the Harlem Renaissance to the U.S. Congress, and like his old friend W.E.B. DuBois he knew the Berkshires well. Read More
Exhibit to open at Simon's Rock
Bard College at Simon's Rock, in partnership with the James Weldon Johnson Foundation, will present an exhibition of the inaugural artist-in-residence program participants. The exhibit opens tomorrow and is on view through March 9.
Located in the Hillman-Jackson Gallery at the Daniel Arts Center, the exhibition is open to the public daily while the college is in session. A panel discussion and reception with the artists will be announced at a later date.
Five artists selected to come to Great Barrington — Daniel Hibbert, Selwyn Garraway, Susan Powers, Meclina Priestley and Cheryl Riley — used the Berkshires as their inspiration to create new works in painting and found objects. During their residencies, which ranged from one to three weeks throughout the summer of 2017, the artists created new work in a studio space provided by Simon's Rock, and were also given access to the former home and writing cabin of James Weldon Johnson, now owned by the Johnson Foundation, located next door to the Simon's Rock campus on Alford Road. Read More
GREAT BARRINGTON, MA—Bard College at Simon’s Rock will kickoff its Black History Month celebration with the Second Annual Gospel Concert on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at 7 p.m. in the Daniel Arts Center. The concert will feature a range of traditional and contemporary gospel music by returning choirs from the Macedonia Baptist Church of Albany, NY—Praise Ensemble, Ivey Squared, and Mount Pleasant Liturgical Dancers—and the Shiloh Youth Choir of Hudson, NY. This event is free and open to the public.
The concert will also feature special performances by Rufus Jones, Co-Founder and President of the James Weldon Johnson Foundation, and Arielle King, a Simon’s Rock junior and the impetus behind the annual event. Jones will lead the audience in a rendition of Johnson’s Lift Every Voice and Sing, also known as the Black National Anthem. King will perform as both a soloist and a member of her church choir, Macedonia Baptist Church Praise Ensemble. Read More
Seventy-five years ago, the friends of James Weldon Johnson were considering how to remember him. Before he died suddenly, when his car was hit by a train, Johnson had had a career that spanned civil rights activism (as a leader in the NAACP and anti-lynching campaigns), poetry, Tin Pan Alley music, novels, and diplomatic work in Latin America. His legacy was immense and difficult to narrow down. So, his friends, led by writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten, formed a collection at Yale University in 1941 that would focus not just on Johnson’s life, but on the wider accomplishments of African Americans in culture. Read More
Watercolorist Selwyn Garraway gifted this exquisite painting of Johnson's writing cabin to the Foundation in November 2016. What continues to astound us is how much art, just in the last year, has been produced by our friends! Can you imagine the possibilities as awareness of Johnson's legacy grows?
The second annual celebration of Harlem Renaissance founder James Weldon Johnson at his home and writing cabin on Alford Road in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Photo Credit: Felix Augustine Photography
At our June 2016 event, artist Meclina Priestley surprised and wowed us with her gift of this micrography portrait of James Weldon Johnson. Look closely and you will see that Meclina has composed this piece entirely with Johnson's writings! We remain in awe of Johnson's ability to inspire such phenomenal art.
"The Creation" is the first poem in James Weldon Johnson's seminal work, God's Trombones. Pete Malinverni has composed and produced a 28-minute piece for Gospel Choir and Jazz Ensemble based on the text of the poem. Premiered at SUNY Purchase in February 2016, The Creation is a stunning work of art that combines 70 singers, 15 jazz musicians and 25 dancers into an experience not to be missed. The Foundation is currently raising funds to produce the piece for a national audience. "The Creation" features the Purchase Soul Voices, the Purchase Jazz Combo and the Purchase Dance Company, choreographed by Kevin Wynn.