“The Harlem Dancer” by Claude McKay (1889 – 1948)



Listen to the “Harlem Dancer” here:


“The Harlem Dancer

by Claude McKay

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes

And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;

Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes

Blown by black players upon a picnic day.

She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,

The light gauze hanging loose about her form;

To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm

Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.

Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls

Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,

The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,

Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;

But looking at her falsely-smiling face,

I knew her self was not in that strange place.

“The Don’t-Care Negro” by Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr. (1861 – 1949)


The Don’t-Care Negro

Neber min’ what’s in your cran’um
So your collar’s high an’ true.
Neber min’ what’s in your pocket
So de blackin’s on your shoe.

Neber min’ who keeps you comp’ny
So he halts up what he’s tuk.
Neber min’ what way you’s gwine
So you’s gwine away frum wuk.

Neber min’ de race’s troubles
So you profits by dem all.
Neber min’ your leaders’ stumblin’
So you he’ps to mak’ dem fall.

Neber min’ what’s true tomorrow
So you libes a dream today.
Neber min’ what tax is levied
So it’s not on craps or play.

Neber min’ how hard you labors
So you does it to de en’
Dat de judge is boun’ to sen’ you
An’ your record to de “pen.”

Neber min’ your manhoods risin’
So you habe a way to stay it.
Neber min’ folks’ good opinion
So you habe a way to slay it.

Neber min’ man’s why an’ wharfo’
So de world is big an’ roun’.
Neber min’ whar next you’s gwine to
So you’s six foot under groun’.

“Atlanta Exposition Ode” by Mary Weston Fordham (1862? – 1905)


“Atlanta Exposition Ode”

‘Cast down your bucket where you are,’
From burning sands or Polar star
From where the iceberg rears its head
Or where the kingly palms outspread;
‘Mid blackened fields or golden sheaves,
Or foliage green, or autumn leaves,
Come sounds of warning from afar,
‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’

What doth it matter if thy years
Have slowly dragged ‘mid sighs and tears?
What doth it matter, since thy day
Is brightened now by hope’s bright ray.

The morning star will surely rise,
And Ethiop’s sons with longing eyes
And outstretched hands, will bless the day,
When old things shall have passed away.

Come, comrades, from the East, the West!
Come, bridge the chasm. It is best.
Come, warm hearts of the sunny South,
And clasp hands with the mighty North.
Rise Afric’s sons and chant with joy,
Good will to all without alloy;
The night of grief has passed away-
On Orient gleams a brighter day.

Say, ye that wore the blue, how sweet
That thus in sympathy we meet,
Our brothers who the gray did love
And martyrs to their cause did prove.
Say, once for all and once again,
That blood no more shall flow in vain;
Say Peace shall brood o’er this fair land
And hearts, for aye, be joined with hand.

Hail! Watchman, from thy lofty height;
Tell us, O tell us of the night?
Will Bethlehem’s Star ere long arise
And point this nation to the skies?
Will pæans ring from land and sea
Fraught with untrammelled liberty
Till Time’s appointed course be run,
And Earth’s millenium be begun?

‘Cast down your bucket,’ let it be
As water flows both full and free!
Let charity, that twice blest boon
Thy watchword be from night to morn.
Let kindness as the dew distil
To friend and foe, alike, good will;
Till sounds the wondrous battle-call,
For all one flag, one flag for all.

“They Are Coming?” by Josephine Delpine Henderson Heard (1861 – 1921)


They Are Coming

BY JOSEPHINE DELPINE HENDERSON HEARD

They are coming, coming slowly —
They are coming, surely, surely —
In each avenue you hear the steady tread.
From the depths of foul oppression,
Comes a swarthy-hued procession,
And victory perches on their banners’ head.

They are coming, coming slowly —
They are coming; yes, the lowly,
No longer writhing in their servile bands.
From the rice fields and plantation
Comes a factor of the nation,
And threatening, like Banquo’s ghost, it stands.

They are coming, coming proudly
They are crying, crying loudly:
O, for justice from the rulers of the land!
And that justice will be given,
For the mighty God of heaven
Holds the balances of power in his hand.

Prayers have risen, risen, risen,
From the cotton fields and prison;
Though the overseer stood with lash in hand,
Groaned the overburdened heart;
Not a tear-drop dared to start —
But the Slaves’ petition reach’d the glory-land.

They are coming, they are coming,
From away in tangled swamp,
Where the slimy reptile hid its poisonous head;
Through the long night and the day,
They have heard the bloodhounds’ bay,
While the morass furnished them an humble bed.

They are coming, rising, rising,
And their progress is surprising,
By their brawny muscles earning daily bread;
Though their wages be a pittance,
Still each week a small remittance,
Builds a shelter for the weary toiling head.

They are coming, they are coming —
Listen! You will hear the humming
Of the thousands that are falling into line:
There are Doctors, Lawyers, Preachers;
There are Sculptors, Poets, Teachers —
Men and women, who with honor yet shall shine.

They are coming, coming boldly,
Though the Nation greets them coldly;
They are coming from the hillside and the plain.
With their scars they tell the story
Of the canebrakes wet and gory,
Where their brothers’ bones lie bleaching with the slain.

They are coming, coming singing,
Their Thanksgiving hymn is ringing.
For the clouds are slowly breaking now away,
And there comes a brighter dawning —
It is liberty’s fair morning,
They are coming surely, coming, clear the way.

Yes, they come, their stopping’s steady,
And their power is felt already —
God has heard the lowly cry of the oppressed:
And beneath his mighty frown,
Every wrong shall crumble down,
When the right shall triumph and the world be blest!

“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.