Powerful poems of black life and achievement from a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance including his celebrated "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the African American National Anthem. James Weldon Johnson's name stirs up emotions which are contained only by tremendous control. His poetry is an exhortation to loose the bonds of dreary second-class citizenship and humiliating segregation and devastating racism. The lyrics bid the reader to be free, to walk with gratitude over ground red with the blood of our ancestors; encourages us to be free to bid the day good morning with hopeful heart, to adore the Creator with gladsome hearts for the battles won and to ask of that same Creator for strength for the battles yet to come. James Weldon Johnson aptly, deeply, with love and humor and a powerful rhyming tongue, has told our story and sung our song. Originally published as Saint Peter Relates a Incident.
James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1871. Among the first to break through the barriers segregating his race, he was educated at Atlanta University and at Columbia and was the first black admitted to the Florida bar. He was also, for a time, a songwriter in New York, American consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua, executive secretary of the NAACP, and professor of creative literature at Fisk Universityexperiences recorded in his autobiography, Along This Way. Other books by him include Saint Peter Relates an Incident, Black Manhattan, and God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. In addition to his own writing, Johnson was the editor of pioneering anthologies of black American poetry and spirituals. He died in 1938.
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