Saint Peter Relates an Incident, Selected Poems

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Author: Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938)

Year: 1935

Publisher: The Viking Press

Place: New York


xi-105 pages. Royal octavo (9 1/4" x 6 1/4") bound in original red cloth with cream paper label with black lettering to label. First edition.

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917. In 1920 he was the first black to be chosen as executive secretary of the organization, effectively the operating officer. He served in that position from 1920 to 1930. Johnson established his reputation as a writer, and was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture. Johnson's first success as a writer was the poem "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" (1899), which his brother Rosamond set to music; the song became unofficially known as the "Negro National Anthem." During his time in the diplomatic service, Johnson completed what became his most well-known book, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, which he published anonymously in 1912. He chose anonymity to avoid any controversy that might endanger his diplomatic career. It was not until 1927 that Johnson acknowledged writing the novel, stressing that it was not a work of autobiography but mostly fictional. In this period, he also published his first poetry collection, Fifty Years and Other Poems (1917), which showed his increasing political stance and adoption of the black vernacular influences that characterize his later work. Johnson returned to New York, where he was involved in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He had a broad appreciation for black artists, musicians and writers, and worked to heighten awareness of their creativity. In 1922, he published a landmark anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry with a "Preface" that celebrated the power of black expressive culture. He compiled and edited the anthology The Book of American Negro Spirituals, which was published in 1925. He continued to publish his own poetry as well. His collection God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927) is considered most important. He demonstrated that black folk life could be the material of serious poetry. He also comments on the violence of racism in poems like "Fragment," which describes how slavery went against both God's love and God's law. Following the flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, Johnson reissued his anthology of poetry by black writers, The Book of American Negro Poetry, in 1931, including many new poets. This established the African-American poetic tradition for a much wider audience and also inspired younger poets. In 1930, he published a sociological study, Black Manhattan. (1930) His Negro Americans, What Now? (1934) was a book-length address advocating fuller civil rights for African Americans.


Spine head bumped. Jacket heal edge chipped with closed tears, spine ends chipped, front head corner chipped else a very good to fine copy in a very good jacket.

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