Categories
America American Black History Celebration Faith James Weldon Johnson poet Poetry Religion and Spirituality Uncategorized United States

“Lift Every Voice and Sing”


by James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson circa
(1900 – 1920) / SOURCE: U.S. Library of Congress
“Lift Every Voice” / Original Version


Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

“Lift Every Voice” by James Weldon Johnson, sung by Committed


Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

Alicia Keys – Lift Every Voice and Sing Performance

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

This poem is in the public domain.

Categories
American American Poetry Martin Luther King, Jr. poet Poetry United States

The Streetsweeper


by Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Original Caption) 4/3/1968-Memphis, TN: One of the last pictures to be taken of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — speaking to a mass rally April 3 in Memphis — when he said he would not halt his plans for a massive demonstration scheduled for April 8 in spite of a federal injunction. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner was felled by a sniper’s bullet, April 4.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper,
sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures,
sweep streets like Beethoven composed music,
sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera.

Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.
Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say:
Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill,
be a shrub in the valley.
Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
For it isn’t by size that you win or fail.
Be the best of whatever you are.

Categories
20th century African-American Joseph S. Cotter, Jr. Literature United States

“And What Shall You Say?” by Joseph S. Cotter, Jr.


Brother, come!

And let us go unto our God.

And when we stand before Him

I shall say —

“Lord, I do not hate,

I am hated.

I scourge no one,

I am scourged.

I covet no lands,

My lands are coveted.

I mock no peoples,

My people are mocked.”

And, brother, what shall you say?

Categories
20th century American Poetry Black History Georgia Douglas Johnson Poetry United States women poets

“Welt” by Georgia Douglas Johnson


Would I might mend the fabric of my youth

That daily flaunts its tatters to my eyes,

Would I might compromise awhile with truth

Until our moon now waxing, wanes and dies.

For I would go a further while with you,

And drain this cup so tantalant and fair

Which meets my parched lips like cooling dew,

Ere time has brushed cold fingers thru my hair!

Categories
20th century African-American American Poetry Black History Literature Poetry

An Excerpt from “Heritage” by Countee Cullen (1903 – 1946)


What is Africa to me:

Copper sun or scarlet sea,

Jungle star or jungle track,

Strong bronzed men, or regal black

Women from whose loins I sprang

When the birds of Eden sang?

One three centuries removed

From the scenes his fathers loved,

Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,

What is Africa to me?

Categories
African-American American American Poetry Black History Poetry Uncategorized

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


The Don’t-Care Negro

BY JOSEPH SEAMON COTTER, SR
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’.

Categories
American American Poetry Black History Poetry Uncategorized

“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!

Categories
African-American American Poetry Black History Poetry Uncategorized

“A January Dandelion” by George Marion McClellan (1860 – 1934)


A January Dandelion

BY GEORGE MARION MCCLELLAN
All Nashville is a chill. And everywhere
Like desert sand, when the winds blow,
There is each moment sifted through the air,
A powdered blast of January snow.
O! thoughtless Dandelion, to be misled
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed,
Was folly growth and blooming over soon.
And yet, thou blasted yellow-coated gem,
Full many a heart has but a common boon
With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem.
When the heart has bloomed by the touch of love’s warm breath
Then left and chilling snow is sifted in,
It still may beat but there is blast and death
To all that blooming life that might have been.
Categories
African-American American American Poetry Black History Poetry Uncategorized

“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.

Categories
African-American American American Poetry Black History Poetry Uncategorized

“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.