20th Century: 1918 - 1921

Georgia Douglass Johnson (1886-1966)

                                                            The Heart of a Woman

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,

As a lone bird, soft winging, so retlessly on,

Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam

In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

 

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,

And enters some alien cage in its plight,

And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars

While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

 

 

1919                                     Fenton Johnson (1888-1958)

                                                           Tired

I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else's civilization.

Let us take a rest, M'Lissy Jane.

I will go down to the Last Chance Saloon, drink a gallon or two of gin, shoot a game or two of dice

     and sleep the rest of the night in one of Mike's barrels.

You will let the old shanty go to rot, the white people's clothes turn to dust, and the Calvary Baptist

     Church sink to the bottomless pit.

You will spend your days forgetting you married me and your nights hunting the warm gin Mike serves

     the ladies in the rear of the Last Chance Saloon.

Throw the children into the river; civilizatio has given us too many.  It is better to die than to grow up

     and find that you are colored.

Pluck the stars out of the heavens.  The stars mark our destiny.  The stars marked my destiny.

I am tired of civilization.

 

 

 

                                       Claude McKay (1889-1949)

                                                     If We Must Die  (the Liberator)

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-O, 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!

O, kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we'll face the uderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

 

 

 

1920                                        Jessie Redmon Fauset (1884-1961)

                                                                Oriflamme  (the Crisis)

"I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and groan, and I would say, 'Mammy, what makes you groan so?'  And she would say,"I am groaning to think of my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don't know where they be.  I look up at the stars and they look up at the stars!'"                                                          -Sojourner Truth

 

I think I see her sitting bowed and black,

  Stricken and seared with slaery's mortal scars,

Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet

  Still looking at the stars.

 

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,

  Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom's bars,

Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,

  Still visioning the stars!

 

 

 

1921                                             Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

                                                      The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers:

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than

     the flow of human blood in human veins.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans,

     and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

 

I've known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

 

 

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