“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’.

“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!

“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.

“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!

“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.

“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.