If we must die — let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursed lot. If we must die — oh, let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe; Though far outnumbered, let us still be brave, And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow! What though before us lies the open grave? Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but — fighting back!
I am glad daylong for the gift of song, For time and change and sorrow; For the sunset wings and the world-end things Which hang on the edge of to-morrow. I am glad for my heart whose gates apart Are the entrance-place of wonders, Where dreams come in from the rush and din Like sheep from the rains and thunders.
Lovely, dark, and lonely one, Bare your bosom to the sun, Do not be afraid of light You who are a child of night. Open wide your arms to life, Whirl in the wind of pain and strife, Face the wall with the dark closed gate, Beat with bare, brown fists And wait.
And when my Joy was born, I held it in my arms and stood on the house-top shouting, “Come ye, my neighbours, come and see, for Joy this day is born unto me. Come and behold this gladsome thing that laugheth in the sun.”
But none of my neighbours came to look upon my Joy, and great was my astonishment.
And every day for seven moons I proclaimed my Joy from the house-top—and yet no one heeded me. And my Joy and I were alone, unsought and unvisited.
Then my Joy grew pale and weary because no other heart but mine held its loveliness and no other lips kissed its lips.
Then my Joy died of isolation.
And now I only remember my dead Joy in remembering my dead Sorrow. But memory is an autumn leaf that murmurs a while in the wind and then is heard no more.
Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you— Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple? I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem. I went to school there, then Durham, then here to this college on the hill above Harlem. I am the only colored student in my class. The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem, through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y, the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you: hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page. (I hear New York, too.) Me—who? Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life. I like a pipe for a Christmas present, or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach. I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races. So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white. But it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white— yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. That’s American. Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. Nor do I often want to be a part of you. But we are, that’s true! As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me— although you’re older—and white— and somewhat more free.