|In 1962, Georgia Douglas Johnson published her fourth and final volume of poetry, Share My World. The collection’s titular poem “Your World” describes the journey of a person recognizing their potential in the world, using a bird in flight as a metaphor to represent the brave act of “flying” free from the limitations that would keep them from reaching their fullest potential. Johnson wanted her final published work (and her life) to serve as a testament for all the Black women who came after her, stating “Your world is as big as you make it”.In 1965, Atlanta University presented Johnson with an honorary Doctorate of Literature, praising her as:
“A sensitive singer of sad songs; faithful interpreter of the feminine heart of a Negro with its joys, sorrows, limitations and frustrations of racial oppression in a male-dominated world; dreamer of broken dreams who translated her disappointments into such memorable and immortal lines as: “The heart of a woman falls back with the night, / and enters some alien cage of its plight, / and tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars / while it breaks, breaks, breaks, on the sheltering bars …”
Johnson died in Washington, D.C. home on on May 15, 1966. Much of her unpublished work was lost, including many papers that were discarded after her funeral. At the time of her death, her protege the poet and playwright May Miller, sat at her bedside, stroking her face while repeating the words “The poet, Georgia Douglas Johnson”.
Georgia Douglas Johnson remains not only the most prolific poet and playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, but also the most criminally neglected. Her tremendous legacy has become almost entirely lost to history, a mere footnote in the lives of her contemporaries and proteges. Like so many women writers who came before her, Johnson was acclaimed during her life, forgotten after her death, and is now relegated to the margins of literary and theatrical history.