James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson Poems

And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely--
I'll make me a world.
...

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
...

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
...

When buffeted and beaten by life's storms,
When by the bitter cares of life oppressed,
I want no surer haven than your arms,
...

O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before Thy throne of grace.
O Lord--this morning--
...

I love to sit alone, and dream,
And dream, and dream;
In fancy's boat to softly glide
Along some stream
...

See! There he stands; not brave, but with an air
Of sullen stupor. Mark him well! Is he
Not more like brute than man? Look in his eye!
...

The hand of Fate cannot be stayed,
The course of Fate cannot be steered,
By all the gods that man has made,
Nor all the devils he has feared,
...

Tiny bit of humanity,
Blessed with your mother’s face,
And cursed with your father’s mind.
...

Look heah! 'Splain to me de reason
Why you said to Squire Lee,
Der wuz twelve ole chicken thieves
...

I knew not who had wrought with skill so fine
What I beheld; nor by what laws of art
He had created life and love and heart
...

I hear the stars still singing
To the beautiful, silent night,
As they speed with noiseless winging
...

(On the Anniversary of Lincoln's Birth)

Father, Father Abraham,
Today look on us from above;
...

Around the council-board of Hell, with Satan at their head,
The Three Great Scourges of humanity sat.
...

O brothers mine, to-day we stand
Where half a century sweeps our ken,
Since God, through Lincoln's ready hand,
...

Enough of love! Let break its every hold!
Ended my youthful folly! for I know
That, like the dazzling, glister-shedding snow,
...

Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,
...

Twenty years go by on noiseless feet,
He returns, and once again they meet,
She exclaims, 'Good heavens! and is that he?'
...

Once der was a meetin' in de wilderness,
All de critters of creation dey was dar;
Brer Rabbit, Brer 'Possum, Brer Wolf, Brer Fox,
...

Skin as black an' jes as sof' as a velvet dress,
Teeth as white as ivory —well dey is I guess.
...

James Weldon Johnson Biography

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his leadership within the NAACP, as well as 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 literature and writing at Fisk University. Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Helen Louise Dillet and James Johnson. His brother was the composer John Rosamond Johnson. Johnson was first educated by his mother (a musician and a public school teacher—the first female, black teacher in Florida at a grammar school) and then at Edwin M. Stanton School. His mother imparted to him her considerable love and knowledge of English literature and the European tradition in music. At the age of 16 he enrolled at Atlanta University, from which he graduated in 1894. In addition to his bachelor's degree, he also completed some graduate coursework there. The achievement of his father, headwaiter at the St. James Hotel, a luxury establishment built when Jacksonville was one of Florida's first winter havens, gave young James the wherewithal and the self-confidence to pursue a professional career. Molded by the classical education for which Atlanta University was best known, Johnson regarded his academic training as a trust given him in the expectation that he would dedicate his resources to black people. Johnson was also a prominent member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. He served in several public capacities over the next 40 years, working in education, the diplomatic corps, civil rights activism, literature, poetry, and music. In 1904 Johnson went on Theodore Roosevelt's presidential campaign. Theodore Roosevelt appointed Johnson as US consul at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela from 1906–1908 and then Nicaragua from 1909–1913. In 1910, Johnson married Grace Nail while he was a United States Consul in Nicaragua. They had met several years earlier in New York when Johnson was working as a songwriter. A cultured and well-educated New Yorker, Grace Nail Johnson became an accomplished artist in pastels and collaborated with her husband on a screenwriting project.)

The Best Poem Of James Weldon Johnson

The Creation

And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely--
I'll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That's good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That's good!

Then God himself stepped down--
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas--
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed--
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled--
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That's good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I'm lonely still.

Then God sat down--
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I'll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen.Amen.

James Weldon Johnson Comments

Bill Vogt 31 October 2005

James Weldon Johnson is one of the best poets in America's past.

66 32 Reply
E Winger 21 May 2010

I learned The Creation in high school in approximately 1966 - I have never forgotten it - back then, I had typed it out on a typewriter and it is still on my bookshelf. One of my most favorite poems ever.

60 36 Reply
Zoila T. Flores 15 March 2014

The Creation is the most original and creative poem that reflects Mr.Johnson's most precious talent. I love it!

32 24 Reply
Allyson 13 December 2017

I love poetry and James' poetry is amazingly beautiful.

19 4 Reply
makyren-tyler-wells 28 January 2019

he was a good man

8 12 Reply
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James Weldon Johnson Quotes

It is from the blues that all that may be called American music derives its most distinctive character.

O black and unknown bards of long ago, How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?

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