Helene Johnson

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Helen Johnson, who was better known as Helene Johnson (1906-1995) was an African American poet during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a cousin of author Dorothy West.

She spent her early years at her grandfather’s house in Boston. The rest of her formative years were spent in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Johnson's literary career began when she won first prize in a short story competition sponsored by the Boston Chronicle. She also received an honorable mention in a poetry contest organized by Opportunity, the journal of the National Urban League that was one of the leading showcase for the talents of African-American artists.

She and Dorothy West moved to Harlem in the 1920s. She attended Columbia University, but did not graduate. Both were a part of the Harlem Renaissance and became friends with such artists as Zora Neale Hurston.

In 1935, Johnson’s last published poems appeared in Challenge: A Literary Quarterly.

She married William Hubbel soon after, and had one child, Abigail.

She spent many years composing poems just for herself.

She is featured in a literature book for junior level high school students.


Shockley, Ann Allen, Afro-American Women Writers 1746-1933: An Anthology and Critical Guide, New Haven, Connecticut: Meridian Books, 1989. ISBN 0-452-00981-2

  • Article by poet Rita Dove, 2000
  • AA Registry Entry for Helene Johnson.
  • Essential Poems (To Fall in Love With) by Daisy Goodwin (contains Helene Johnson's poem, "Futility")
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