In honor of Women's History Month, I present to you the former First Lady of Union Baptist Church (Baltimore), Mrs. Harvey Johnson.
This photograph is from London Studio, circa 1894-1895, on 5 W. Lexington St., Baltimore.
In the early 1990s, while visiting Atlanta, GA, I stopped at a roadside antique sale and acquired an 1891 edition of the Afro American Press by I. Garland Penn. Ever since that fateful day, I've been studying the illustrations in that book, and specifically, on page 423, Mrs. A.E. Johnson. Over 20 something years later, I knew instantly that this was her picture for sale at an online auction. Amelia Etta Hall Johnson was born in Toronto, Canada in 1858 to parents who were natives of Baltimore. In 1877, she married the Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson, of Union Baptist Church, and became First Lady of Union Baptist. They became one of the most important power couples in black Baltimore's history. They had three children: two sons and a daughter. Amelia Johnson was a writer of novels, short fiction, and poetry, writing under the name Mrs. A.E. Johnson. Much of her work focused on the social circumstances of her character, rather than racial or ethnic aspects. Her fiction has been compared to that of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Johnson's works include children's literature, Sunday school fiction, and three novels: Clarence and Corrinne, which was the first Black author to be published by the American Baptist Publication Society of Philadelphia, The Hazeley Family (1894), and Martina Meriden (1901). She also published in many well-known Black print venues, such as The Baptist Messenger, The American Baptist, and Our Women and Children.
In 1887, she published The Joy and, in 1888, she published The Ivy. These short-lived magazines targeted young African Americans and educated them about their culture, The Joy targeting young girls with stories and The Ivy, spreading awareness of African American history.
Amelia Johnson died on March 29, 1922. Her obituary appeared in the April 7, 1922 AFRO American newspaper.