Feb. 15, 1999
Volume 51, No. 20
Prominent clergy will gather Feb. 28 to perform God's Trombones
Emory will honor U.S. Rep. John Lewis with a performance of James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, in Glenn Auditorium. Lewis will receive the President's Medal in recognition of his contributions to Georgia and the civil rights movement.
Johnson's collection of poems, published in 1927, was inspired by both childhood memories of sermons he had heard and a remarkable sermon he witnessed as an adult. "An electric current ran through the crowd. It was in a moment alive and quivering; and all the while the preacher held it in the palm of his hand. Before he had finished I took a slip of paper and somewhat surreptitiously jotted down some ideas for the first poem," wrote Johnson in the preface to God's Trombones. "These poems would better be intoned than read. But the intoning practiced by the old-time preacher is a thing next to impossible to describe; it must be heard, and it is extremely difficult to imitate even when heard," he wrote.
The poems will be recited by a number of well-known Atlanta ministers, including the Rev. Barbara King, founder of Hillside Chapel and Truth Center, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, chairman of Basic Action Strategies and Information Center and the Rev. Teresa Fry Brown, assistant professor of homiletics at Emory.
Dwight Andrews, associate professor of music at Emory and senior minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ, will preside. Carol Mitchell, director of theater at Clark Atlanta University, is consulting director. Music selections will be performed by members of the Ben Hill United Methodist Church choir, with Johnetta Johnson Page directing.
Lewis will be presented with the President's Medal by President Bill Chace. The medal was commissioned in 1995 by Chace to honor individuals whose impact on the world has enhanced the dominion of peace or has enlarged the range of cultural achievement. Lewis, who recently wrote his memoir, Walking with the Wind, was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the group that organized sit-ins and 1961's Freedom Rides. He has held Georgia's fifth Congressional seat since 1986.
The occasion also marks the opening of the James Weldon Johnson Collection, recently acquired by Special Collections.
God's Trombones is free and open to the public. For more information, call 404-727-2245.