James Weldon Johnson Biography
(1871–1938), God's Trombones, Fifty Years and Other Poems
American poet, songwriter, and critic, born in Jacksonville, Florida, educated at Jacksonville and Columbia Universities. In 1901 he and his brother, John Rosamond, moved to New York, where they collaborated on successful musical comedies. He was General Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1920 to 1930, and served as a US diplomat in Venezuela and Nicaragua (1906–13). He also held many academic posts. His poetry draws heavily on the African-American folk and religious traditions. Very biblical in style, his best-known collection, God's Trombones (1927), consists of seven sermons by an old-time black preacher; his other collections include Fifty Years and Other Poems (1917) and St. Peter Relates an Incident of the Resurrection Day (1930). His only novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), was a landmark in African-American fiction. Along This Way (1933), his autobiography, has become a classic. The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922, revised edition 1931), which he edited, was the first anthology of its kind, and was prefaced by ‘An Essay on the Negro's Creative Genius’. Together with his brother, he also edited The Book of American Negro Spirituals (2 volumes, 1940). See also ethnicity and Harlem Renaissance.
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