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God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 27, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143105418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143105411
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON (1871–1938) was a songwriter, poet, novelist, journalist, critic, autobiographer, lawyer, and public servant. With his brother John Rosamond, he wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which became the African American national anthem. He was United States consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua, executive director of the NAACP, and a professor of creative literature at Fisk University. His many books include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Please read and enjoy.
Roy E. Romig
My soul is galvanized everytime I hear or read James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones.
Ramona L. Hyman
I love the simplicity of the words in each of his poems.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on November 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
James Weldon Johnson was one of the giants of African-American cultural history. A novelist, poet, songwriter, diplomat, educator, and activist, he left behind a towering legacy when he died in 1938. An essential part of that legacy is "God's Trombones," a book in which Johnson pays poetic tribute to the "old-time Negro preacher."
"God's Trombones" contains seven poems, each of which is inspired by the art of the classic African-American sermon. Most of Johnson's poems retell Bible stories. "The Creation," "Noah Built the Ark," "Let My People Go," and more--each one carries the reader to the traditional Black churches of Johnson's era. In his preface Johnson discusses the cultural significance of the traditional African-American religious orator and also reflects on his own literary strategies in the construction of these poems.
Johnson's poems beg to be read aloud. Whatever your own ethnic heritage or religious inclination, try giving voice to these masterworks: you'll be amazed at the effect. If you are a lover of Christian inspirational writing, a scholar of African-American culture, or a person who appreciates great poetry, "God's Trombones" would make a fine addition to your library.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Many times I have used the poems from this book as dramatic readings and audiences have always responded in positive ways. The majesty of the words and the profound experiences that they describe bring peace to the soul. The first time I read this book was in 1960. It had a tremendous impact on me then and continues to minister to me even now. Real truth will do that. It never goes out of date.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
James Weldon Johnson (1871 -- 1938) is best-known as the author of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the "Negro National Anthem" written in 1900 for Lincoln's birthday. Johnson had extraordinary gifts as a poet. His celebration of the African-American preacher in God's Trombones, published in 1927, is a masterpiece of American poetry.

Johnson was inspired to write "God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse " after hearing a stirring African-American preacher in Kansas City in 1918. Johnson wrote seven free-verse poems on biblical themes to capture the rhythm, content, language and religious commitment of the African-American preacher. Johnson also wrote a celebrated prose introduction to the book in which he described the place of the preacher in African-American life and explained his decision not to use dialect in writing the poems. Johnson also explained why he used the trombone as the guiding figure of his poem. Johnson wrote of his experience with the Kansas City preacher:

"He strode the pulpit up and down in what was actually a very rhythmic voice, a voice -- what shall I say? -- not of an organ or a trumpet, but rather of a trombone, the instrument possessing above all others the power to express the wide and varied range of emotions encompassed by the human voice -- and with greater amplitude. He intoned, he moaned, he pleaded, -- he blared, he crashed, he thundered. ... [T]he emotional effect upon me was irresistable."

The poetry opens with a short preliminary call to prayer, "Listen, Lord" followed by the seven sermons. The sermons open with the preacher's account of "The Creation"; and they conclude with a sermon on the end of days, "The Judgment Day".
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Yeo on December 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Weldon Johnson's "God's Trombones" is a tour de force of literature. Unfortunately this EDITION gets only one star - it does great disservice to Johnson's great work.

This book has undergone great violence in this Penguin Classics edition (2008). It suffers from several defects:

1. The book has been published as part of Penguin's "African American Classics" series, and the Foreward (Penguin's spelling) by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (General Editor) takes away from the power of Johnson's own Preface. This Foreward drifts far away from Johnson's work. Johnson was a great pioneer in race relations in the USA, but "God's Trombones" is not a book about race - it's a book about the Black preachers Johnson heard in his youth and his homage to them. By narrowing the book into the genre of "Black literature" it takes away its significance as simply a great piece of American literature.

2. Maya Angelou's additional Foreward is simplistic and attempts to frame Johnson's poems in the context of slavery and the Black experience that resulted from slavery. The problem with this is that Johnson himself - in his excellent Preface that fortunately is still in this edition - doesn't frame his poems that way. Johnson mentions slavery in one sentence of his Preface; Angelou wants us to think the poems are about a subject - slavery - rather than people - the great black preachers of Johnson's time.

3. The wonderful illustrations - which were tipped into the original publication in 1927 - are poorly reproduced, appearing to be low-quality scans of previous paperback editions. The pixilating of the images is unfortunate.

4. Penguin has laid out the poems anew, taking away Johnson's original layout.
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