James Weldon Johnson
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James Weldon Johnson
:
Julia Hammond

Biography: James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida. His mother taught him music and things about life. He graduated in 1894 at Atlanta University and later went to Colombia University. After he graduated, he became the principal of the Jacksonville school where his mother was a teacher at and used to teach him. He was the principal there until 1906. In 1897, while still being the principal, he became the first African American in the Duval county to pass the bar exam of Florida. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him the United States consul in Venezuela. in the next few years, he became the consul of Nicaragua.
While teaching at the Fisk University, the began to write his novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, which was first published anonymously. Since it was not well known, he reissued it with his name. He then wrote his poem Fifty Years and Other Poems which was published in the New York Times. In 1916, he was offered a place in the NAACP as the post of field secretary. Later on, he proved himself as an executive organizer and was called as th executive secretary of the NAACP.
As a secretary, he was able to get the attention of people on the matters of racism, segregation, and lynching. After several years, he retired. In the 1920s, Johnson was a well-known critic, editor, and poet. He wrote several books on poetry and African Americans, and wrote many recognizeable poems. In 1938, Johnson died because his car collided with a train on June 26.

Poetry Analysis:
The Color Sergeant:
Under a burning tropic sun,
With comrades around him lying,
A trooper of the sable Tenth
Lay wounded, bleeding, dying.

First in the charge up the fort-crowned hill,
His company's guidon bearing,
He had rushed where the leaden hail fell fast,
Not death nor danger fearing.

He fell in the front where the fight grew fierce,
Still faithful in life's last labor;
Black though his skin, yet his heart as true
As the steel of his blood-stained saber.

And while the battle around him rolled,
Like the roar of a sullen breaker,
He closed his eyes on the bloody scene,
And presented arms to his Maker.

There he lay, without honor or rank,
But, still, in a grim-like beauty;
Despised of men for his humble race,
Yet true, in death, to his duty.

Analysis: James Weldon Johnson was a man who believed in civil rights and no segregation. Like many other poets, Johnson spread the word of segregation and rights of African Americans through his novels and poems. His famous poem, The Color Sergeant expresses the facts that racism is shameful and African Americans are trustworthy. Johson's message can be found through the character, the symbolism, and his poetic devices and styles to show feeling. Most of Johnson's poems from Fifty Five Years and Other Poems are similar and contain the same message that African Americans are trustworthy. This poem is one that affected readers the most.
Johnson's poem, The Color Sergeant, expresses its message from the character in the poem. The main character is the colored sergeant who is dying in the middle of the war. This character is described as a man who is trustworthy and is always true to his duty. This represents the characteristics of a good person and what everybody should be like.
During the Harlem Renaissance, the white poeple believed that no African American was like this. This poem shows that African Americans are trustworthy, especially at the end when it says " Yet true, in death, to his duty."
Another reason the poem shows its message is through its symbolism. The biggest symbol in the whole poem is the war. The war is supposed to represent a time of suffering or when something has gone wrong. In The Color Sergeant, the war represents the time period it was created in. It represents the Harlem Renaissance. And in the Harlem Renaissance, the African American people kept believing. "And while the battle around him rolled, Like the roar of a sullen breaker" helps represent what the setting was like for the Harlem Renaissance.
The last reason why the poem represents its strong message is through its poetic devices. The poetic styles and devices he uses helps make his poem have more feeling into it. He uses war as a reference to both the past and the present. It makes people remember what it was like to be a soldier and see your fellow human beings lay dying. Its use of rhyming makes it more recognizable. It makes you memorize it and think about it more than if it was a free verse.

Works Cited
"James Weldon Johnson biography James Weldon Johnson Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story - Biography.com ." Bio. True Story Famous Biographies & TV Shows - Biography.com . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2012. http://www.biography.com/people/james-weldon-johnson-9356013.


"James Weldon Johnson- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More." Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID

"Poet: James Weldon Johnson - All poems of James Weldon Johnson." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of poems and poets. Poetry Search Engine. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. http://www.poemhunter.com/james-weldon-johnson/.

Poetry X » Poetry Archives » James Weldon Johnson » "The Color Sergeant"." Poetry X » Poetry Archives. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/15655