According to James Weldon Johnson, there is little known about his early life, which he kept shielded even from his closest associates. He attended public schools in Pomeroy and spent time at Miami College and wrote regularly for daily newspapers in Chicago in the 1880s and 1890s. Campbell participated in a group publication, the Four O’Clock Magazine, a literary magazine that was quite popular for a time. He is best known for his work Echoes from the Cabin and Elsewhere, a volume of poetry. His poems are written in the dialect of his subjects, or the vernacular of the time, as well as standard English.