“Aunt Chloe’s Lullaby” by Daniel Webster Davis (1862 – 1913)


Aunt Chloe’s Lullaby

by DANIEL WEBSTER DAVIS

Hesh! my baby; stop yer fuss,
I’s ‘fraid yuz gittin wuss an’ wuss;
Doncher cry, an’ I gwy mek’
Mammy’s baby ‘lasses cake.
Hesh! my lubly baby chil’,
I gwy rock yo’ all de whil’;
Nuffin gwyne to ketch yo’ now,
‘Cause yer mammy’s watchin’ yo’.
Sleep! my little baby, sleep!
Mammy’s baby, Lou!

How dem dogs do bark to-night!
Better shet yer eyes up tight;
Dey kan’t hab dis baby dear;
Mammy’s watchin’, doncher fear.
Hear dem owls a-hootin’ so?
Dey shan’t ketch dis baby, do’.
Jes’ like mistis lub her chil’,
Mammy lubs dis baby too.
Sleep! my little baby, sleep!
Mammy’s baby, Lou!

Mammy’s baby, black an’ sweet,
Jes’ like candy dat you eat,
Mammy lay yo’ in dis bed,
While she mek de whi’ folk’s bread.
Angels dey gwy look below,
Watch dis baby sleepin’ so.
Go to sleep, my hunny, now,
Ain’t yer mammy watchin’ yo’?
Sleep! my little baby, sleep!
Mammy’s baby, Lou.

“A September Night” by George Marion McClellan (1860 – 1934)


The full September moon sheds floods of light,
And all the bayou’s face is gemmed with stars
Save where are dropped fantastic shadows down
From sycamores and moss-hung cypress trees.
With slumberous sound the waters half asleep
Creep on and on their way, twixt rankish reeds,
Through marsh and lowlands stretching to the gulf.
Begirt with cotton fields Anguilla sits
Half bird-like dreaming on her summer nest
Amid her spreading figs, and roses still
In bloom with all their spring and summer hues.
Pomegranates hang with dapple cheeks full ripe,
And over all the town a dreamy haze
Drops down. The great plantations stretching far
Away are plains of cotton downy white.
O, glorious is this night of joyous sounds
Too full for sleep. Aromas wild and sweet,
From muscadine, late blooming jessamine,
And roses, all the heavy air suffuse.
Faint bellows from the alligators come
From swamps afar, where sluggish lagoons give
To them a peaceful home. The katydids
Make ceaseless cries. Ten thousand insects’ wings
Stir in the moonlight haze and joyous shouts
Of Negro song and mirth awake hard by
The cabin dance. O, glorious is this night.
The summer sweetness fills my heart with songs
I cannot sing, with loves I cannot speak.

“I Can Trust” by Daniel Webster Davis (1862 – 1913)


“I Can Trust”

BY DANIEL WEBSTER DAVIS

I can not see why trials come,
And sorrows follow thick and fast;
I can not fathom His designs,
Nor why my pleasures can not last,
Nor why my hopes so soon are dust,
But, I can trust.

When darkest clouds my sky o’er hang,
And sadness seems to fill the land,
I calmnly trust His promise sweet,
And cling to his ne’er failing hand,
And, in life’s darkest hour, I’ll just
Look up and trust.

I know my life with Him is safe,
And all things still must work for good
To whose who love and serve our God,
And lean on Him as children should,
Though hopes decay and turn to dust,
I still will trust.

“Verses to My Heart’s-Sister” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1849 – 1916)


Verses To My Heart’s-Sister

We’ve traveled long together,
O sister of my heart,
Since first as little children
All buoyant, we did start
Upon Life’s checkered pathway,
Nor dreamed of aught save joy;
But ah! To-day can tell us
Naught is without alloy.

Rememb’rest thou the gambols
Of those sweet, early days,
When siren Fancy showed us
Our dreams through golden haze?
Ah, well thou dost remember
The mirth we then did share,
The sports, the tasks, the music,
The all-embracing prayer.

Somehow my own sweet sister,
Our heart-strings early twined;
Some rare bond of affection
Of tastes and aims combined;
Made us, e’en in our Springtime,
Soul-sisters fond and leal;
And how that love has strengthened
The years can well reveal.

We’ve seen our loved ones vanish
Far from our yearning gaze,
Into the peace of Heaven.
O those sad, saddest days,
When we two clung together,
So lonely and forlorn,
With our crushed hearts all quiv’ring,
All bruised, and scarred and torn.

So nearer clung we, sister,
And loved each other more;
The tendrils of our natures
Twined closer than before.
We could speak to no other
Of those sweet, holy things,
So tender yet so nameless,
Which sorrow often brings.

The troubles that have thickened
Around our daily path,
We’ve borne together, sister,
And oft when courage hath
Grown feeble, and the future
Was dark with naught of cheer,
Could one have faced the conflict
Without the other near?

And sister, dear Heart’s-Sister,
When all the mystery
Of this strange life is ended
In Immortality,
We’ll love each other dearly
As now we do, and more;
For sacred things in Heaven
Grow richer than before.

And shall not those sweet loved ones
Missed here so long! so long!
Join with us in the music
Of an all-perfect song?
We feel a gladder cadence
Will thrill their rapt’rous strain,
When we are with them, sister,
All, ne’er to part again!

So now as here we linger,
May ours be happy days!
O generous-hearted sister,
In all Life’s winding ways
May we have joy together!
And this I fondly pray, —
God bless thee, dear Heart’s-Sister’.
Forever and for aye!

“Frederick Douglass” by Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. (1861 – 1949)


Frederick Douglass

BY JOSEPH SEAMON COTTER, SR

O eloquent and caustic sage!
Thy long and rugged pilgrimage
To glory’s shrine has ended;
And thou hast passed the inner door,
And proved thy fitness o’er and o’er,
And to the dome ascended.

In speaking of thy noble life
One needs must think upon the strife
That long and sternly faced it;
But since those times have flitted by,
Just let the useless relic die
With passions that embraced it.

There is no evil known to man
But what, if wise enough, he can
Grow stronger in the bearing;
And so the ills we often scorn
May be of heavenly wisdom born
To aid our onward faring.

Howe’er this be, just fame has set
Her jewels in thy coronet
So firmly that the ages
To come will ever honor thee
And place thy name in company
With patriots and sages.

Now thou art gone, the little men
Of fluent tongue and trashy pen
Will strive to imitate thee;
And when they find they haven’t sense
Enough to make a fair pretense,
They’ll turn and underrate thee.

“Robert G. Shaw” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1850? – 1916)


When War’s red banners trailed along the sky,
And many a manly heart grew all aflame
With patriotic love and purest aim,
There rose a noble soul who dared to die,
If only Right could win. He heard the cry
Of struggling bondmen and he quickly came,
Leaving the haunts where Learning tenders fame
Unto her honored sons; for it was ay
A loftier cause that lured him on to death.
Brave men who saw their brothers held in chains,
Beneath his standard battled ardently.
O friend! O hero! thou who yielded breath
That others might share Freedom s priceless gains,
In rev’rent love we guard thy memory.

“Learning to Read” by Frances E. W. Harper (1825 – 1911)


Learning to Read

Very soon the Yankee teachers
   Came down and set up school;
But, oh! how the Rebs did hate it,—
   It was agin’ their rule.
Our masters always tried to hide
   Book learning from our eyes;
Knowledge did’nt agree with slavery—
   ’Twould make us all too wise.
But some of us would try to steal
   A little from the book.
And put the words together,
   And learn by hook or crook.
I remember Uncle Caldwell,
   Who took pot liquor fat
And greased the pages of his book,
   And hid it in his hat.
And had his master ever seen
   The leaves upon his head,
He’d have thought them greasy papers,
   But nothing to be read.
And there was Mr. Turner’s Ben,
   Who heard the children spell,
And picked the words right up by heart,
   And learned to read ’em well.
Well, the Northern folks kept sending
   The Yankee teachers down;
And they stood right up and helped us,
   Though Rebs did sneer and frown.
And I longed to read my Bible,
   For precious words it said;
But when I begun to learn it,
   Folks just shook their heads,
And said there is no use trying,
   Oh! Chloe, you’re too late;
But as I was rising sixty,
   I had no time to wait.
So I got a pair of glasses,
   And straight to work I went,
And never stopped till I could read
   The hymns and Testament.
Then I got a little cabin
   A place to call my own—
And I felt independent
   As the queen upon her throne.

“Troubled with the Itch and Rubbing with Sulphur” by George Moses Horton (1797? – 1883?)


Troubled With The Itch, And Rubbing Sulfur

‘Tis bitter, yet ’tis sweet,
Scratching effects but transient ease;
Pleasure and pain together meet,
And vanish as they please.

My nails, the only balm,
To ev’ry bump are oft applied,
And thus the rage will sweetly calm
Which aggravates my hide.

It soon returns again;
A frown succeeds to ev’ry smile;
Grinning I scratch and curse the pain,
But grieve to be so vile.

In fine, I know not which
Can play the most deceitful game,
The devil, sulphur, or the itch;
The three are but the same.

The devil sows the itch,
And sulphur has a loathsome smell,
And with my clothes as black as pitch,
I stink where’er I dwell.

Excoriated deep,
By friction play’d on ev’ry part,
It oft deprives me of my sleep,
And plagues me to my heart.

“Early Affection” by George Moses Horton (1792? – 1883)


Early Affection

I lov’d thee from the earliest dawn,
     When first I saw thy beauty’s ray,
And will, until life’s eve comes on,
     And beauty’s blossom fades away;
And when all things go well with thee,
With smiles and tears remember me.
I’ll love thee when thy morn is past,
     And wheedling gallantry is o’er,
When youth is lost in age’s blast,
     And beauty can ascend no more,
And when life’s journey ends with thee,
O, then look back and think of me.
I’ll love thee with a smile or frown,
     ’Mid sorrow’s gloom or pleasure’s light,
And when the chain of life runs down,
     Pursue thy last eternal flight,
When thou hast spread thy wing to flee,
Still, still, a moment wait for me.
I’ll love thee for those sparkling eyes,
     To which my fondness was betray’d,
Bearing the tincture of the skies,
     To glow when other beauties fade,
And when they sink too low to see,
Reflect an azure beam on me.

“Dr. Booker T. Washington to the National Negro Business League” by Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. (1861 – 1949)


Dr. Booker T. Washington to the National Negro Business League

’Tis strange indeed to hear us plead
   For selling and for buying
When yesterday we said: “Away
   With all good things but dying.”
The world’s ago, and we’re agog
   To have our first brief inning;
So let’s away through surge and fog
   However slight the winning.
What deeds have sprung from plow and pick!
   What bank-rolls from tomatoes!
No dainty crop of rhetoric
   Can match one of potatoes.
Ye orators of point and pith,
   Who force the world to heed you,
What skeletons you’ll journey with
   Ere it is forced to feed you.
A little gold won’t mar our grace,
   A little ease our glory.
This world’s a better biding place
   When money clinks its story.