John’s Lack of Self Awareness and its Affect on his Life and Preaching

In the novel ‘Jonah’s Gourd Vine’ (Hurston, 1933), main character John believes that he is a good person, a man of G-d even, despite hurting many people around him. His first fault began when he married a young girl named Lucy, and promised to be faithful. Over time, he cheated on her with multiple other women, and through it all, Lucy stayed true to him and remained at John’s side until her early death. Even though this marriage was very flawed and Lucy was unhappy, John spent the rest of his life after her death lamenting their marriage and wishing she would come back to him. He even went as far as to compare his second wife, Hattie, to Lucy, saying: “What you doin in Miss Lucy’s shoes” (p. 144) and continuing to explain that he never loved her and wished they hadn’t married. He beat Hattie many times until she left him. In addition, after Hattie divorced him, John pursued another marriage with a woman named Sally who he vowed to be faithful to, however he broke this vow the day of his passing.

Throughout all his sins, John continued to believe he was a good person and went on to become a preacher mid-way through the novel. His sins did not end because of this. As explained by article ‘The Worm Against the Word” (Ciuba, 2000), John fails as a preacher for one main reason: “He fails to give an adequate interpretation of himself because he fails to give an adequate interpretation of ‘signs, symbols, and texts'”. He sees things that happen to him or around him as not his fault; he thinks he is cursed or that G-d has it out for him, and never takes accountability for his actions. He takes his anger out on others, and hurts many people, believing that they had it coming or that it was his right to hurt them for some reason that he has justified to himself.

Analysis of Martin’s Work and Gates’ ‘Death’s Black Train is Coming’

After reading the article ‘Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Shaping of Modern African American Religion’ by Martin, and watching his videos ‘Black Spiritual Music’ and ‘Left of Black’, I feel I learned a lot about the black spiritual religious scene throughout history. I felt I wanted to know a bit more about Martin after reading and watching his articles and videos, however, so I found an interesting article about him.

Lerone A. Martin

Martin has won a host of awards in regards to his teaching and research, and is very well known in his field.

Martin spoke about the commoditization of spirituals and preachers, and how spirituals originally spread through preachers who travelled around. To gain popularity, preachers would often use celebrities to publicize their works to spread awareness of their sermons. Reverend Gates, writer of ‘Death’s Black Train is Coming’, made his own path in life by not signing to a record company; this allowed him to make money how he chose and with whomever he chose.

In terms of how these spirituals came to be, many of them were created as songs of hope or work songs. This knowledge leads me to wonder, what type of song is “Death’s Black Train is Coming’? Is it a song to help people not be afraid of death or a song that threatens death or hell on those who do not believe in G-d? Maybe it is a little of both. Either way, it seems like it is different than other sermons of the time. I do not know much about sermons in general, however Martin mentioned in his article that many sermons initially introduce a problem, then says that it will be alright, thus encouraging crowds to celebrate, leading me to believe that ‘Death’s Black Train is Coming’ is an unusual sermon for its time.