James Weldon Johnson quotes

  • You are young, gifted, and Black. We must begin to tell our young, There's a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that's just begun.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Waiting #Black #World

  • The colored people of this country know and understand the white people better than the white people know and understand them.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Country #White #People

  • It is strange how in some things honest people can be dishonest without the slightest compunction.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #People #Strange #Honest

  • Young man, young man, your arm's too short to box with God.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #God #Men #Arms

  • My love for my children makes me glad that I am what I am, and keeps me from desiring to be otherwise; and yet, when I sometimes open a little box in which I still keep my fast yellowing manuscripts, the only tangible remnants of a vanished dream, a dead ambition, a sacrificed talent, I cannot repress the thought, that after all I have chosen the lesser part, that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Dream #Children #Ambition

  • Amsterdam was a great surprise to me. I had always thought of Venice as the city of canals; it had never entered my mind that I should find similar conditions in a Dutch town.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Cities #Venice #Mind

  • Labor is the fabled magician's wand, the philosophers stone, and the cap of good fortune.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Stones #Philosopher #Wands

  • She was my first love, and I loved her as only a boy loves.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #First Love #Boys #Firsts

  • This country can have no more democracy than it accords and guarantees to the humblest and weakest citizen.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Country #Justice #Democracy

  • ...evil is a force and, like the physical and chemical forces, we cannot annihilate it; we may only change its form. We light upon one evil and hit it with all the might of our civilization, but only succeed in scattering it into a dozen of other forms
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Light #Civilization #Evil

  • I found cause to wonder upon what ground the English accuse Americans of corrupting the language by introducing slang words. I think I heard more and more different kinds of slang during my few weeks' stay in London than in my whole "tenderloin" life in New York. But I suppose the English feel that the language is theirs, and that they may do with it as they please without at the same time allowing that privilege to others.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #New York #Thinking #Causes

  • A people may become great through many means, but there is only one measure by which its greatness is recognized and acknowledged. The final measure of the greatness of all peoples is the amount and standard of the literature and art they have produced.... No people that has produced great literature and art has ever been looked upon by the world as distinctly inferior.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Art #Mean #Greatness

  • I do not see how a people that can find in its conscience any excuse whatever for slowly burning to death a human being, or for tolerating such an act, can be entrusted with the salvation of a race.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Race #People #Burning

  • Any musical person who has never heard a Negro congregation under the spell of religious fervor sing these old songs has missed one of the most thrilling emotions which the human heart may experience.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Song #Religious #Heart

  • It’s no disgrace to be black, but it’s often very inconvenient.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Black #Disgrace

  • Nothing great or enduring, especially in music, has ever sprung full-fledged and unprecedented from the brain of any master; the best he gives to the world he gathers from the hearts of the people, and runs it through the alembic of his genius.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Running #Heart #People

  • And God stepped out on space, and He looked around and said: I'm lonely - I'll make me a world.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Lonely #Space #World

  • In the life of everyone there is a limited number of experiences which are not written upon the memory, but stamped there with a die; and in the long years after, they can be called up in detail, and every emotion that was stirred by them can be lived through anew; these are the tragedies of life.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Memories #Years #Numbers

  • At a very early age I began to thump on the piano alone, and it was not long before I was able to pick out a few tunes? I also learned the names of the notes in both clefs, but I preferred not be hampered by notes.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Music #Piano #Names

  • It is from the blues that all that may be called American music derives it most distinctive characteristics.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Music #May #Characteristics

  • O Black and unknown bards of long ago, How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Music #Fire #Long

  • As yet, the Negroes themselves do not fully appreciate these old slave songs.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Song #Appreciate #Slave

  • Northern white people love the Negro in a sort of abstract way, as a race; through a sense of justice, charity, and philanthropy, they will liberally assist in his elevation.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #White #Race #People

  • Shortly after this I was made a member of the boys choir, it being found that I possessed a clear, strong soprano voice. I enjoyed the singing very much.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Strong #Boys #Voice

  • The Southern whites are in many respects a great people. Looked at from a certain point of view, they are picturesque. If one will put oneself in a romantic frame of mind, one can admire their notions of chivalry and bravery and justice.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Romantic Love #Views #Justice

  • My mother was kept very busy with her sewing; sometimes she would have another woman helping her.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Mother #Helping #Sometimes

  • There are a great many colored people who are ashamed of the cake-walk, but I think they ought to be proud of it.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Thinking #Cake #People

  • My luck at the gambling table was varied; sometimes I was fifty to a hundred dollars ahead, and at other times I had to borrow money from my fellow workmen to settle my room rent and pay for my meals.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Gambling #Luck #Meals

  • I am a thing not new, I am as old As human nature. I am that which lurks, Ready to spring whenever a bar is loosed; The ancient trait which fights incessantly Against restraint, balks at the upward climb; The weight forever seeking to obey The law of downward pull; and I am more: The bitter fruit am I of planted seed; The resultant, the inevitable end Of evil forces and the powers of wrong.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Spring #Fighting #Law

  • And Satan smiled, stretched out his hand, and said, "O War, of all the scourges of humanity, I crown you chief.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #War #Hands #Humanity

  • Some men enjoy the constant strife Of days with work and worry rife, But that is not my dream of life: I think such men are crazy. For me, a life with worries few, A job of nothing much to do, Just pelf enough to see me through: I fear that I am lazy.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Dream #Jobs #Crazy

  • 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.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Eye #Hands #Sea

  • With his head in his hands, God thought and thought, Till he thought: I'll make me a man!
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Men #Hands

  • 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 His own image.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Baby #Dust #Clay

  • I finally made up my mind that I would neither disclaim the black race nor claim the white race; but that I would change my name, raise a mustache, and let the world take me for what it would; that it was not necessary for me to go about with a label of inferiority pasted across my forehead.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Race #Lynching #Names

  • A great wave of humiliation and shame swept over me. Shame that I belonged to a race that could be so dealt with; and shame for my country, that it, the great example of democracy to the world, should be the only civilized, if not the only state on earth, where a human being would be burned alive.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Country #Race #Lynching

  • I had enjoyed life in Paris, and, taking all things into consideration, enjoyed it wholesomely.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Paris #Consideration

  • Every race and every nation should be judged by the best it has been able to produce, not by the worst.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Race #Able #Should

  • Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies; Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Sea #Sky #Voice

  • And so for a couple of years my life was divided between my music and my school books.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Couple #Book #School

  • As I look back now I can see that I was a perfect little aristocrat.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Perfect #Looks #Littles

  • But I must own that I also felt stirred by an unselfish desire to voice all the joys and sorrows, the hopes and ambitions, of the American Negro, in classic musical form.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Ambition #Voice #Joy

  • Southern white people despise the Negro as a race, and will do nothing to aid in his elevation as such; but for certain individuals they have a strong affection, and are helpful to them in many ways.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Strong #Race #White

  • In Berlin I especially enjoyed the orchestral concerts, and I attended a large number of them. I formed the acquaintance of a good many musicians, several of whom spoke of my playing in high terms.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Numbers #Good Man #Musician

  • My appearance was always good and my ability to play on the piano, especially ragtime, which was then at the height of its vogue, made me a welcome guest.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Play #Piano #Guests

  • We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Blood #Black History #Tears

  • Through my music teaching and my not absolutely irregular attendance at church, I became acquainted with the best class of colored people in Jacksonville.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Teaching #Class #People

  • I thought of Paris as a beauty spot on the face of the earth, and of London as a big freckle.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Paris #Earth #London

  • The peculiar fascination which the South held over my imagination and my limited capital decided me in favor of Atlanta University; so about the last of September I bade farewell to the friends and scenes of my boyhood and boarded a train for the South.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Farewell #Atlanta #Imagination

  • When we arrived in London, my sadness at leaving Paris was turned into despair. After my long stay in the French capital, huge, ponderous, massive London seemed to me as ugly a thing as man could contrive to make.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Sadness #Men #Paris

  • The battle was first waged over the right of the Negro to be classed as a human being with a soul; later, as to whether he had sufficient intellect to master even the rudiments of learning; and today it is being fought out over his social recognition.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Soul #Battle #Today

  • When one has seen something of the world and human nature, one must conclude, after all, that between people in like stations of life there is very little difference the world over.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Differences #People #World

  • Americans are immensely popular in Paris; and this is not due solely to the fact that they spend lots of money there, for they spend just as much or more in London, and in the latter city they are merely tolerated because they do spend.
    -- James Weldon Johnson

    #Cities #Paris #London