For every bustling jazz joint that opened in Korean War-era Harlem, a new church seemed to spring up. "Tambourines to Glory "introduces you to an unlikely team behind a church whose rock was the curb at 126th and Lenox.
Essie Belle Johnson and Laura Reed live in adjoining tenement flats, adrift on public relief. Essie wants to somehow earn enough money to reunite with her daughter and provide her with a nice home; Laura loves young men, mink coats, and fine Scotch. On a day of inspiration, the friends decide to use a thrift-store tambourine and a layaway Bible to start a church.
Their sidewalk services are a hit: Laura's a natural street performer who loves the limelight, while Essie is a charismatic singer with a quiet spirituality. Before long they move to a thousand-seat theatre called the Tambourine Temple. The two women are joined in their ministering by Birdie Lee, the little-old-lady trap drummer who can work the congregation to a feverish pitch, and Deacon Crow-For-Day, an impassioned confessor.
But then Laura falls for Buddy, a scam artist who suggests selling to the faithful lucky numbers from Scripture and bottles of tap water as "Holy Water from the Jordan." Even with a Cadillac and piles of money from Laura, Buddy won't stay faithful, igniting a crime of passion and betrayal.
Harlem Moon Classics is proud to reintroduce readers of all generations to this sparkling gem from the canon of Langston Hughes.
About the Author
Evelyn Louise Crawford and MaryLouise Patterson(a San Francisco art consultant and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Cornell) are the daughters of some of Langston Hughes's closest black friends and political comrades. They remained cherished friends and confidantes of his for over forty years. Their parents, Louise Thompson Patterson (1901 1999), William L. Patterson (1891 1980), Matt N. Crawford (1903 1996), and Evelyn Graces Crawford (1899 1972), were black Communist civil rights activists. Langston Hughes often stayed with them, and they all traveled together, corresponded about key issues of the day, and took a joint trip to the Soviet Union. Langston Hughes wrote poems to celebrate both girls' births.