J. Chester Johnson gave the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday sermon at Trinity Wall Street on Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 11:15AM. Previous speakers for this occasion at Trinity Wall Street have included Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Marion Wright Edelman (founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund), Calvin Butts (senior minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem), among many others, who have contributed meaningfully to the American civil rights movement. Trinity Wall Street, founded over three hundred years ago, is the iconic church with the large cemetery surrounding it (where Alexander Hamilton, Robert Fulton, Albert Gallatin, among others, are buried), located at the top of Wall Street on Broadway in lower Manhattan (New York City).
In the late 1960s, after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and near the height of the civil rights movement, J. Chester Johnson left New York City, returning to Monticello, Arkansas in the Mississippi River Delta, where he had grown up before leaving for college, to teach in an all African-American public school in advance of integration of the education system in southeast Arkansas. In 2008, he wrote the litany of offense and apology in prose and poetry for the national Day of Repentance, when the Episcopal Church formally apologized, with the presiding bishop officiating, for its role in transatlantic slavery and related evils. He has also written on the American Civil Rights Movement, several pieces of which are contained in the J. Chester Johnson Collection of the Civil Rights Archives at Queens College (New York City), the school Andrew Goodman attended before joining Freedom Summer when he was martyred, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
Click here to download a transcript of the sermon.
Video courtesy of Trinity Wall Street, New York, NY
This article, “Auden: Defender at Dusk,” was originally published in an early 2014 volume on W. H. Auden in Spain as part of the Papers de Versalia project on major poets; the previous three poets included in the series, published by Papers de Versalia, were Rainer Maria Rilke, Giuseppe Ungaretti, and Emily Dickinson. Additional American and British writers who contributed to the Papers de Versalia book on W. H. Auden included Edward Mendelson, Jonathan Culler, John Fuller, among others. A reprint of this article by J. Chester Johnson on W. H. Auden was published by Green Mountains Review in late 2014 (Volume XXVII, No II).
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