God’s Trombones is a book of sermons and poetry, written by James Weldon Johnson. The book was published in 1927 and it is still very common for preachers to recite surmans from the book today. I have attached a clip of William Warfield reciting one of the most popular sermons in God’s Trombones titled “Creation”, so that everyone can get a feel of what the book, (and sermons written in it) are like.
Reading about God’s Trombones and listening to performances of the poems and sermons, gave me a clearer view of what the song “The Little Black Train is Coming” was talking about. It also gave me a better understanding of the songs and religion in the movie “Hallelujah”. When reading about God’s Trombones, I found that the train was used in the book to symbolise death. In Death’s Black Train is Coming, it seems that the train also symbolizes death. The stanza that made me think this was the case, was when it goes “There some men and there some women, That care nothing for the gospel light, till they hear the bell ring and the whistle blow, o the little black train in sight”. I took that to mean that there were men and women that did not pray and were not religious until they were dying. People started praying and caring “for the gospel light”, only when they are close to death.
Death and hardship was a major theme throughout the book God’s Trombones. Death was also a very big part of the movie “Hallelujah”. Near the start of the movie, when the young boy is shot and killed, singing sermons and Zeke becoming a pastor is what gets the family through the hard time. Chick only starts really liking Zeke when she sees him singing and reciting sermons. Much of the movie revolved around religious songs and sermons. There are many similarities in Zekes preaching and the sermons written in God’s Trombones. In God’s Trombones, poems and sermons are meant to do the same thing that they did for the Mammys family. They help people that are struggling or mourning come to peace with their loss.