"OUR BATTLE IS ALONG A WIDE FRONT": FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF JAMES WELDON JOHNSON'S FINAL WORKS, NEGRO AMERICANS, WHAT NOW?, 1934
JOHNSON, James Weldon. Negro Americans, What Now? New York: Viking, 1934. Octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. $1250.
First edition of the last major work by Johnson—"one of the most commanding figures of the Harlem Renaissance"—directed at his fellow Black Americans, a clear-eyed summing-up of the dire realities of their lives and useful strategies for the Black struggle, in very scarce dust jacket.
Published the decade of his death, here Johnson "capped his best advice to the generations ahead… [and] inventories the strengths of Black America," including the Black church and the NAACP, as well as the importance of the Black press, noting its responsibility in countering stereotypes of the Black Americans (Smith, et al, African American Writers, 198). "One of the most commanding figures of the Harlem Renaissance in his multiple roles as lyricist, editor, historian, novelist and director of the NAACP," Johnson is perhaps best known for works such as Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), God's Trombones (1927), and his two-volume work on American Negro Spirituals (1925-26) (Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, 179-80).
In this important yet very elusive work, Johnson especially focuses on education, noting "there is hardly an important page of American history that can be fully and truthfully written without reference to the Negro," yet American textbooks ignore or distort this. Black students must, he writes, be taught not only their American history and "African cultural background," but also "independent political thinking… The ignorance of white people concerning us, constitutes one of our greatest obstacles." On publication, a reviewer echoed this, stating: "Every white American in the U.S. ought to read" this book (New York Times). In his concluding words, Johnson urges Black readers to adopt his lifelong pledge: "I will not allow one prejudiced person or one million or one hundred million to blight my life." First edition, first printing: copyright page with "First published October 1934," no statement of edition or printings. Blockson 3454. Owner signature dates year of publication.
Book fine; light edge-wear, small closed tears to very scarce near-fine dust jacket.