Fenton Johnson
By Tony Chung


Fenton Johnson

Fenton Johnson was born on May 7, 1888 in Chicago, Illinois to Elijah and Jesse Johnson, and later died on September 17, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois. Fenton Johnson published his first poem at the age of twelve. His plays were performed in Chicago at the age of nineteen. Fenton Johnson's whole childhood was spent in Chicago, and receive education there from Englewood high School and Wendall Phillips High school ("Fenton-3"). Johnson first began his college at Northwestern University, and completed his degree at the University of Chicago. He later receive a degree from the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University. Johnson taught English at State University of Louisiana, then return back to Chicago to continue his literacy career.

Johnson's early work contains poems written in black dialect and conventional English. Johnson's poems are a significant bridge between the work of the century authors and the writers that would be part of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 30s. His poems later reveal a determination to the urban blues in the Harlem Renaissance. Fenton Johnson would write many poems during the Harlem Renaissance, but he publish little of his work after the Harlem Renaissance ("Fenton-1").
Fenton Johnson worked valiantly for several years to support himself as a writer. His most memorable poetry has its roots in African American culture and experiences ("Johnson-1").

Poetry Analysis
I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else's civilization.Let us take a rest, M'lissy Jane.
I will go down to the Last Chance Saloon, drink a gallon or two of gin, shoot agame or two of dice and sleep the rest of the night on one of Mike's barrells.
You will let the old shanty go to rot, the white people's clothes turn to dust, andthe Cavalry Baptist Church sink to the bottomless pit.
You will spend your days forgetting you married me and your nights hunting thewarm gin Mike serves the ladies in the rear of the Last Chance Saloon.
Throw the children in the river; civilization has given us too many. It is better to diethan it is to grow up and find out that you are colored.
Pluck the stars out of the heavens. The stars mark our destiny. The stars mark my destiny.
I am tired of civilization.

Fenton Johnson's poems contain black dialect and conventional English. His poems are a significant bridge of the work of the authors and the writers that constitute the Harlem Renaissance. Fenton Johnson produced a group of memorable poems expressing despair about race relations. Other significant poems use language to convey the power of spirituals. His later poems reveal a determination yet pessimism related to the urban blues of the same period. He's a poet of the Harlem Renaissance. His poems would show life of an African American and how rough their life are.

In Johnson's poem, "Tired", he would use strong imagery like "tired" (1), "colored" (10), "stars" (11), and "destiny" (11). The word "tired" would repeat a lot. The poem seems like Johnson is tired of civilization and being color, but it's his destiny to be African American. It also sound live he's tried of being an African slave. The poem says, "I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else's civilization" (1). A theme of this poem could be that slavery would make you hate civilization. But Johnson is trying to say that being a slave is destiny to African Americans, "The stars mark our destiny. The stars make my destiny" (11).

Works Cited

1. Fenton Johnson, a Chicago Poet | African American Registry." The Black Box | African American Registry. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/fenton-johnson-chicago-poet>.

2. "Fenton Johnson: Poems." Poetry Archive | Poems. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://www.poetry-archive.com/j/johnson_fenton.html>.

3. "Fenton Johnson (poet)." Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenton_Johnson_%28poet%29>.

4. "Johnson, Fenton(1888–1958) - Poet, Chronology - Johnson’s, Poetry, Chicago, and American - JRank Articles ." Online 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2012. <http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4322/Johnson-Fenton-1888-1958.html>.