March 15-16, 2018 UNCG will host a symposium featuring keynote speakers, poets, and performers. “Celebrating God’s Trombones: African American Cadences and Culture” acknowledges the ninetieth anniversary publication of James Weldon Johnson’s beloved work. All events are free and open to the public.
When the noted author and NAACP activist James Weldon Johnson sat down to write “The Creation” and “Go Down, Death,” some of the first poems of God’s Trombones, he sought to acknowledge the poetry of African American folk sermons: the “rhythmic dance” of the preacher’s strides, the “wonderful voice” “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.” His project in writing God’s Trombones was to invite a broader culture of listeners into the world of the African American preacher and his congregants. The sermons have captivated the attention of generations, and they continue to be performed in a loving expression of Johnson’s vision for the acknowledgment of African American folk culture in the American nation.