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James Weldon Johnson: Writings [Hardcover]

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Item description for James Weldon Johnson: Writings by James Weldon Johnson...

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), James Weldon Johnson's first book and the first modernist novel written by an African American, is a groundbreaking and subtle account of racial passing, initially published as an anonymous memoir. Its veracity---many believed it to be a genuine autobiography---has made it one of the undisputed masterpieces of African American literature and established Johnson in the African American literary vanguard of the first half of the twentieth century. He was also one of the central figures of the civil-rights struggle of his era, a tireless activist and longtime leader of the NAACP. Until now, however, his innovative and fascinating writings have never been gathered in a one-volume edition.

Johnson's complex career spanned the worlds of diplomacy (as a U.S. consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua), politics (as secretary of the NAACP), journalism (as the founder of one newspaper and longtime editor of another), and musical theater (as lyricist for the Broadway song-writing team of Cole and Johnson Brothers). Writings presents a generous array of Johnson's essays which, with the early work of W.E.B. Du Bois, established the foundation of twentieth- century African American literary criticism; a selection of his topical editorials from the New York Age; and an offering of his poems and lyrics, including God's Trombones---a brilliant verse homage to African American preaching---vaudeville songs, protest poems, and perhaps Johnson's most famous work, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a stirring hymn often called the "Negro National Anthem."

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Item Specifications...

Pages   828
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 5, 2004
Publisher   Library of America
ISBN  1931082529  
ISBN13  9781931082525  

Availability  1 units.
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More About James Weldon Johnson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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."

James Weldon Johnson was born in 1871 and died in 1938.

James Weldon Johnson has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Dover Thrift Editions
  2. Penguin Classics
  3. Twentieth-Century Classics

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > English > American Literature
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( J ) > Johnson, James Weldon
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > General
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > African American > General
6Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > African American > Johnson, James Weldon
7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > United States > General

Reviews - What do customers think about James Weldon Johnson: Writings?

James Weldon Johnson and the Library of America  Apr 18, 2005
For 25 years, the Library of America has been publishing uniform editions of America's great writers, documenting our country's achievements in literature, history, philosophy, government, and other forms of letters. It is a truly worthwhile project. The series covers the United States in all its diversity, and many of the finest volumes in the series deal with the African-American experience and with the Civil Rights movement in all their facets and complexities. The LOA's single-volume edition, published in 2004, of the works of James Weldon Johnson (1871 -- 1938) is an outstanding addition to the series and an essential work for understanding the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. More broadly, Johnson's writings are universal and will be of value for any reader interested in American literature.

Johnson had a varied career as a poet, novelist, essayist, editorial writer, diplomat, lawyer, educator, civil rights activist, and songwriter. His achievements in these fields are well-documented in this book. The LOA's anthology includes Johnson's famous novel of "passing", "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" (1912); Johnson's own autobiography, "Along this Way" (1933), a generous selection of poetry, including "God's Trombones" (1928), together with selections from Johnson's history of African-Americans in New York City, "Black Manhattan" and selections from Johnson's essays and editorials.

The reader coming to Johnson for the first time might well begin with the poetry. Poetry and music seem to me Johnson's greatest loves and the source of his best accomplishments. Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing" written in 1900 is probably his best-known individual work and is commonly referred to as the "Negro National Anthem". Johnson's poem "Fifty Years: 1863 -1913" commemorates President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and is a moving commentary on the work that remains to be done to implement the vision of that document. "God's Trombones" is Johnson's tribute to the African-American preacher with seven sermons in verse. There are many other poems in this volume for the reader to explore, many with African -American themes and many without them.

After reading the poetry, I suggest proceeding to Johnson's only novel, "The Autobiography of an ex-colored Man" published anonomously in 1912. Ths short novel is an exellent picture of race relations as they were at the time. But the book's themes are universal in character as Johnson depicts his troubled protagonist, buffeted by chance events, and lacking the degree of self-knowledge to find himself.

Johnson's essays and newspaper editorials give an idea of the breadth of his interests. Johnson fought passionately against the practice of lynching, as documented in many places including his essay "Lynching: A National Disgrace". Johnson compiled ground-breaking anthologies of Negro Spirituals and African-American poetry, and the introductions to the anthologies are included here. Johnson's "Black Manhattan" is offered only in excerpts but the selections here show black contributions to the Broadway stage in which Johnson himself and his brother, Rosamund, played leading roles. The selection also includes an excellent portrayal of the blues singer, Clara Smith, who today has, unfortunately, faded into obscurity. ( She is not to be confused with the more famous singer, Bessie Smith).

I would turn last in this volume to Johnson's autobiography, "Along this Way." This is a detailed work in which Johnson describes for the reader his childhood, his education, and his many and varied careers and writings. It is a great autobiography in its own right, and the reader will best appreciate it with an initial familiarity with Johnson's other writings. There are unforgettable moments in the book, and scenes of Johnson's relationships with other influential African-American leaders, including DuBois, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Booker T. Washington.

These books are full of reflections and insights on philosophical and literary subjects, together with Johnson's thoughts and efforts regarding race relations in the United States. Johnson emphasized the great achievements of African-Americans in creating the spirituals, in poetry, and in music -- particularly ragtime. He wanted African-Americans to be proud of their heritage and accomplishments, and he wanted his non-African-American readers to become aware of and to appreciate these accomplishments. Johnson was a writer of great gifts and broad themes. The Library of American has done a great service by making accessible this collection of his works.


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