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American Literature
Library of America
James Weldon Johnson

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James Weldon Johnson. Writings
Writings book jacket Edited by: William L. Andrews
Library of America
ISBN: 1-931082-52-9
Series Number: 145
Product Code: 201535
Price: $40.00
James Weldon Johnson's career was one of extraordinary range, spanning the worlds of diplomacy (as U.S. consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua), politics (as Secretary of the NAACP), journalism (as founder of one newspaper and longtime editor of another), musical theater (as lyricist for the Broadway songwriting team of Cole and Johnson Brothers), and literature (as novelist, poet, and anthologist). At the dawning of what would become the modern civil rights movement, he forged a record of accomplishment that defied the odds. The Library of America now presents a collection of his writings that displays the many facets of a complex and impassioned writer.

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Johnson's first book, is a novel which on its original anonymous publication was taken by many for an actual memoir. A groundbreaking work of modern fiction, it powerfully describes the inner development of a gifted, socially alienated man as he tries to come to terms with the constraints of racism.

Along This Way (1933) is Johnson's genial and enthralling account of his fantastically busy life, with a cast of characters including W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Clarence Darrow, Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Carl Van Vechten, and many others.

A selection of shorter proseżeditorials from The New York Age, political essays, literary prefaces, an excerpt from the historical study Black Manhattanżconfirms the variety of Johnson's interests, as he comments on figures and topics including Jack Johnson, Marcus Garvey, Woodrow Wilson, lynching, anti-Japanese discrimination in California, American involvement in Haiti, changing trends in theater and poetry, and the significance of spirituals.

Johnson's poetry is represented by the full text of God's Trombones (1927), his stirring homage to African-American preaching, and shorter works including "O Black and Unknown Bards," lyrics from Johnson's Broadway songwriting days, and "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the hymn often referred to as the "Negro National Anthem."


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