James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) was a major architect of the Harlem Renaissance, believing that artistic achievement was key to the progress of African Americans. The former diplomat developed alliances with white philanthropists to support the movement. Johnson’s poetry, anthologies, and histories also made him an important contributor to the Renaissance. His most celebrated work, God’s Trombones (1927), a tribute to the “old time Negro preacher,” was inspired by his many visits to churches as an NAACP speaker. Johnson broke new literary ground by avoiding the use of Negro dialect; the book consists of free verse sermons that capture the oratorical style of the folk-preacher in standard English. The first edition was illustrated by the painter Aaron Douglass.