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God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  58 reviews

James Weldon Johnson was a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and one of the most revered African Americans of all time, whose life demonstrated the full spectrum of struggle and success. In God's Trombones, one of his most celebrated works, inspirational sermons of African American preachers are reimagined as poetry, reverberating with the musicality and splendid

Paperback, 80 pages
Published February 1st 1990 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1927)
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Dhanaraj Rajan
James Weldon Johnson has penned some eight sermons in verse following the style of a 'Negro Spiritual.' [I never approve of the word Negro. But as it is found in the text and because J W Johnson used it to identify rightly what he wanted to say, I stick to it wherever I think it is necessary. As I was never in US, my judgment can be wrong. My apologies].

They are Biblical in themes and blending with the Black experience in US as slaves they evoke powerful emotions.

These verse-sermons are modeled
Jeff Crompton
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've had this wonderful little book on my shelves for years, but had never read it from cover to cover, and had never read Johnson's preface. Today I picked it up on a whim and read the whole thing in one short sitting. The poems, based on the style of African-American preachers, are excellent, entertaining, and moving. The preface is equally strong, making a case that black preaching is a folk art worthy of preservation.

See if you can read "Go Down Death - A Funeral Sermon" without getting a
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetshere
The Preface by Johnson was the engaging element, establishing the foundations of the black church, much like Chadwick's work on the first Christians: what else to do with the wolf at the door?

The sermons are lyrical--they live essentially pre-heard , nascent within us. Ancient stories adjusted for local preference. Sometimes I wish I had a spiritual inclination, not often--but certainly sometimes. I was listening to Count Basie, if that helps. The cadence outreaches the eschatology. That could
Laurel Hicks
These wonderful poems have long been favorites of mine. James Weldon Johnson was a true scholar and artist.
robin friedman
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sounding God's Trombones

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
J. Alfred
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Young man--
Young man--
Your arm's too short to box with God."
I think you should read these poems.
Other than that they give me chills and I want to hear them performed on stage, I don't really have much else to say about the whole situation. Read the poems, is what I'm saying.
"When I start down the steep and slippery steps of death—
When this old world begins to rock beneath my feet—
Lower me to my dusty grave in peace
To wait for that great gittin' up morning—Amen."
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith
Really enjoyed reading these. Truly poetic in every sense of the word.

I remember hearing "Go Down, Death" from a film from the 1940s that used this poem as inspiration for the movie from this book, so it was interesting to read it.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: haveacopy
This book has been on my shelf for years. Most recently it has served as a door stop for our bedroom door to keep out our conniving tortoiseshell cat who is known for busting in the bedroom at 3:00 in the morning with her loud purrs and tendency to burrow under the covers and crowd you in the bed. Why this book? Because of it's perfect thickness.

Yesterday I decided that it was time to read the book. I discovered it was a gift from the deacons of our church to my father as he was enjoying one of
Lee Harmon
Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! This is a Penguin Classic, reprinted in 2008 from the original in 1927. It presents seven inspiring Negro sermons in verse.

A thought-provoking statement comes from the Forward: “African Americans are the only people in the whole world and history who really practice Christianity.” No one else has ever found in their hearts the gift of forgiveness, the Forward claims. African Americans forgave the slave owners who worked them without payment for 240 years. This ability to forgive made
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 1927, God’s Trombones features seven popular African-American sermons structured as poems. As Mr. Johnson writes in his introduction, his decision to write them as verse is to capture the lyrical, rhythmic style frequently used by African-American preachers. The result is a lovely collection with a cadence and energy that jumps off the page. My one complaint is that I wish there were more. For those interested in either the historic or religious, this book is worth a ...more
contains one of the most beautiful poems i've ever read..."Go Down Death (A Funeral Sermon)." i can only believe that Mr. Johnson *had* to have been overcome with Spirit when creating this phenomenal work. the clarity and strength of the images that spring up from his words is unbelievable.

i've recited "Go Down Death" at the funerals for both of my grandmothers. even now, just reading it casually, i still get emotional just before the end of the poem.
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to David by: Dr. Richard Long
Here in poetic form, James Weldon Johnson has captured the rhythms and cadence of the black preacher. "The Creation" was once memorized and recited at the graduations at segregated "colored" schools. This is the same man who wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing", the Black National Anthem. This is a real African American classic.
Nyasha Junior
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read my suggestions for a No-Bible Bible Study
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous little book. The sermons were some I had heard as a child, and they were such an inspiration to me. This book is a treasure.
Victoria B.
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It was like being in church (and suddenly made me wish to go).
Lydia Poole
Mar 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book of sermons! The imagery is incredible! loved this book, have read it twice so far
Barnaby Haszard Morris
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting filtering of Bible stories, through the voices of pre-civil rights black preachers, through Johnson's elegant but forceful poetry.

I find it interesting that these are mostly Old Testament tales -- an angry, vengeful God. These preachers and their congregations were so profoundly sinned against; perhaps that made the idea of salvation for the good and hellfire for the evil particularly attractive.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recall reading some of these poems in high school, and not really grasping their power. This time I listened to these amazing poems "preached" in audio book format, where the real power of the poetry reveals itself.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this. The poems really gave you a sense of the sermons and the beats to hit and all that. The Prodigal Son was the most interesting, I thought, as it was a different sermon than I'd heard on that story.
Andrea Engle
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2017
My favorite short book of poetry ... Truly it's the sort of book that begs to be read aloud ... It's been a while since I first read these sermons in verse, but I plan to add to my list of books to be re-read on a regular basis this marvelous, slender volume ...
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The preface and introduction were possibly the best parts.
Garrett Peace
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty great!
James Schlichter
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great writing! Best read out loud with gusto!
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
fast food
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A classic worth re-reading anytime.
Carole B
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Young man --
Young man --
Your arm's too short to box with God."
Gwen Lester-Cunningham
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book took me back to the church of my childhood. Powerful, soul stirring sermons. I loved it.
Lou Last
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems
Full text with illustrations from an early edition:
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
A masterpiece of rhythm and voice. In his preface, Johnson laments the passing of the African American revivalist preacher; he needn't have worried, for he has captured the eloquence and power of such sermons with the fervency of a true devotee. More than sermons, though, these poems are a moving testament to the electric artistry of the Harlem Renaissance. God's Trombones reveals something new about itself every time I read it. It is a must-read for any student of religious literature, jazz-age ...more
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James Weldon Johnson was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and collections of folklore. He was also one of the first African-American professors at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative ...more
“Listen!--- Listen!
All you sons of Pharaoh.
Who do you think can hold God's people
when the Lord God himself has said,
Let my people go?”
More quotes…