Hall Johnson, the son of a minister and a former slave, was born in Athens in 1888.

Johnson’s passion for spirituals began in his childhood. With his mother and grandmother singing traditional spirituals to him from birth, Johnson discovered his passion for music at a young age. He received his first violin at just fourteen and taught himself to play. After graduating from high school in 1903, Johnson left Athens to pursue an education in music education and performance from the University of Pennsylvania. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Celeste Corpening, they moved to New York City.

Johnson would go on to compose numerous original compositions, including “The Son of Man” and perform in many music groups, including the Negro String Quartet, which earned a considerable amount of critical acclaim. He produced the Broadway Musical, Run Little Chillun, and toured the United States leading the widely popular Hall Johnson Choir.

Johnson died suddenly when a fire broke out in his New York apartment building.

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