Who was Fenton Johnson, and what did he contribute to American literature?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Fenton Johnson was an African-American writer. Known especially for his poetry that expressed the marginalization, disillusionment, and bitterness of his race in post-World War II, Johnson also was a playwright, an essayist, and an editor.

Despite the fact that his father owned their home and he was able to be "a dapper boy" who was able to attend Northwestern University, a prestigious school outside of his native Chicago, and teach at State University at Louisville, Johnson was embittered about the position in which Negroes found themselves. His poem "Tired" expresses the despair of his people in the first half of the twentieth century:

I am tired of work. I am tired of building up somebody else's civilization....
Pluck the stars out of the heavens. The stars mark our destiny. The stars mark my destiny.

"Tired" is a poem of the urban blues. In his earlier poetry, Johnson wrote in both black dialect and in conventional English. His poem "Tired," written as an urban blues paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance.

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