Prelude to Our Age – A Negro History Poem – Langston Hughes (pt. 6)

Other hands whose fingers intertwine
With mine tell our story, too:
Park, Myrdal, Sinclair lewis,
Smith, Van Vechten, Bucklin Moon.
Surveys, novels, movies, plays
That trace the maze of patterns
Woven by democracy and me,
Now free.

And all the while
The rising power of my vote
Helping to build democracy –
My vote, my labor, lodges, clubs,
My N.A.A.C.P. –
The National Association
For the Advancement
Of Colored People –

All the way from a Jim Crow dining car
To the United States Supreme Court –
For the right to get a meal on a train.

All the way from a Jim crow School
To the United States Supreme Court –
For the right to equal education.

All the way from ghetto covenants
To the United States Supreme Court –
For the right to housing free from segregation.

Thus I help to build democracy
For our nation.
Thus by decree across the history of our land –
The shadow of my hand:

All this
A prelude to our age:

Is another


Prelude to Our Age: A Negro History Poem – Langston Hughes (pt. 5)

Booker T. –
A school, Tuskegee.
Paul Laurence Dunbar –
A poem,a song, a “Lindy Lou.”
Fisk University and its Jubilees.
Black Congressmen of Reconstruction days.
Black comics with their minstrel ways,
Then Williams & Walker, “In Dahomey,” “Bandana Land”
Ragtime sets the pattern for a nation’s songs
and Handy writes the blues
For me –
Now free.

Free to build my churches and my schools –
Mary McLeod Bethune.
Free to explore clay and sweet potatoes –
Dr. Carver.
Free to take our songs across the world –
Anderson, Maynor, Robeson,
Josephine Baker, Florence Mills,
Free to sit in councils of the nation –
Johnson, Hastie, Dawson, Powell.
Free to make blood plasma –
Charles R. Drew.
Free to move at will in great migrations
South to North across the nation –
Savannah to Sugar Hill,
Rampart Street to Paradise Valley,
Yamakraw to yale.
Free to fight in wars as other s do –
Free – yet segregated.

As man or soldier

The 10th Calvary at San Juan Hill:
“As I heard one of the Rough Riders say,”
Wrote Theodore Roosevelt,
“‘They can drink out of our canteens.'”

The 369th Infantry at Champagne:
To Henry Johnson
and to Needham Roberts,
The Croix de Guerre.

The 322nd Fighter Group over the Mediterranean:
To more than 80 pilots,
The Distinguished Flying Cross.

In the Pacific, the Navy Cross to Dorie Miller.
Me, hero and Killer.
(Yet segregated.)

Me, peacemaker, too –
Ralph Bunche
Between the Arab
and the Jew.

Du Bois, Woodson, Johnson, Frazier,
Robert S. Abbott, T. Thomas Fortune,
“The Afro-American,” “The Black Dispatch.”
All the time the written record grows –
“The Crisis,” “Phylon,” “Opportunity,”
Schomburg, McKay, Cullen, “Native Son,”
Papers, stories, poems the whole world knows –
The ever growing History of man
Shadowed by my hand:

Prelude to Our Age: A Negro History Poem – Langston Hughes (pt. 4)

Yet Ira Aldridge played Shakespeare in London.
Frederick Douglass ran away to freedom,
Wrote books, made speeches, edited “The North Star.”
Sojourner Truth made speeches, too.
Harriet Tubman led her marches.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” swept the nation –
While we, who were not free and could not write a word,
Gave freedom a song the whole earth heard:

Oh Freedom!
Freedom over me!
Before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord
And be free.

Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey
and thousands nameless went home.
Black men died at Harpers Ferry with John Brown.
Lovejoy, Garrison, Wendell Phillips spoke.
The North Star guided men along the Quaker underground
To Canada – hills to cross, rivers to ford.
Sermons, revolt, prayers, Civil War –

Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord!

Once slaves –
“Henceforth and forever free.”

My Lord, what a morning,
My Lord, what a morning,
My Lord, what a morning,
When the stars began to fall!

Prelude to Our Age: A Negro History Poem – Langston Hughes (pt.3)

Part 2

Yet Boston’s Phillis Wheatley, slave, wrote her poems,
And Washington, the general, praised –
Washington who righted wrong –
But those of us who had no rights
made an unwritten song:

Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land,
And tell old Pharaoh
To let my people go….

Black Crispus Attucks died
That our land might be free.
His death
Did not free me.
When Banneker made his almanac
I was not free.
When Toussaint freed the blacks of Haiti,
I was not free.

In other lands Dumas and Pushkin wrote –
But we,
Who could not write, made songs:

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home…
Oh, I looked over Jordan
And what did I see –

Phillis, Crispus, Toussaint,
Banneker, Dumas, Pushkin,
All of these were me –
Not free:

As long as one
Man is in chains,
No man is free.

Click here for Part 4.


To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.

Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.


Poems of Problems by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company 1914

Elegy (for MOVE and Philadelphia) — by Sonia Sanchez

& now my feet are maps


a disguised southern city
squatting in the eastern pass of
colleges cathedrals & cowboys.
philadelphia, a phalanx of parsons
and auctioneers
modern gladiators
erasing the delirium of death from their shields
while houses burn out of control.

c’mon girl hurry on down to osage st
they’re roasting in the fire
smell the dreadlocks and blk/skins
roasting in the fire.

c’mon newsmen and tvmen
hurryondown to osage st and
when you have chloroformed the city
and after you have stitched up your words
hurry on downtown for sanctuary
in taverns and corporations

and the blood is not yet dry.

how does one scream in thunder?

they are combing the morning for shadows
and screams tongue-tied without faces
look, over there, one eye
escaping from its skin
and our heartbeats slowdown to a drawl
and the kingfisher calls out from his downtown capital
and the pinstriped general reenlists

View original post 243 more words

Dark Symphony / Melvin Tolson

I – Allegro Moderato 

Black Crispus Attucks taught
Us how to die
Before white Patrick henry’s bugle breath
Uttered the vertical
Transmitting cry:
“Yea, give me liberty or give me death.”

Waif of the auction block,
Men black and strong
The juggernauts of despotism withstood,
Loin-girt with faith that worms
Equate the wrong
And dust is purged to create brotherhood.

No Banquo’s ghost can rise
Against us now,
Aver we hobnailed man beneath the brute,
Squeezed down the thorns of greed
On Labor’s brow,
Garroted lands and carted off the loot.

II – Lento Grave

The centuries-old pathos in our voices
Saddens the great white world,
And the wizardry of our dusky rhythms
Conjures up shadow-shapes of ante-bellum years:

Black slaves singing One More River to Cross
In the torture tombs of slave-ships,
Black slave singing Steal Away to Jesus
In jungle swamps,
Black slaves singing The Crucifixion
In slave-pens at midnight,
Black slaves singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
In cabins of death,
Black slaves singing Go Down, Moses
In the canebrakes of the Southern Pharaohs.


III – Andante Sostenuto

They tell us to forget
The Golgotha we tread . . .
We who are scourged with hate,
A price upon our head.
They who have shackled us
Require of us a song,
They who have wasted us
Bid us condone the wrong.

They tell us to forget
Democracy is spurned.
They tell us to forget
The Bill of Rights is burned.
Three hundred years we slaved,
We slave and suffer yet:
Though flesh and bone rebel,
They tell us to forget!

Oh, how can we forget
Our human rights denied?
Oh, how can we forget
Our manhood crucified?
When Justice is profaned
And plea with curse is met,
When Freedom’s gates are barred,
Oh, how can we forget?


IV – Tempo Primo

The New Negro strides upon the continent
In seven-league boots . . .
The New Negro
Who sprang from the vigor-stout loins
Of Nat Turner, gallows-martyr for Freedom,
Of Joseph Cinquez, Black Moses of the Amistad Mutiny,
Of Frederick Douglass, oracle of the Catholic Man
Of Sojourner Truth, eye and ear of Lincoln’s legions,
Of Harriet Tubman, Saint Bernard of the Underground Railroad.

The New Negro
Breaks the icons of his detractors,
Wipes out the conspiracy of silence,
Speaks to his America:
“My history-moulding ancestors
Planted the first crops of wheat on these shores,
Built ships to conquer the seven seas,
Erected the Cotton Empire,
Flung railroads across a hemisphere,
Disemboweled the earth’s iron and coal,
Tunneled the mountains and bridged rivers,
Harvested the grain and hewed forests,
Sentineled the Thirteen Colonies,
Unfurled Old Glory at the North Pole,
Fought a hundred battles for the Republic.”

The New Negro
His giant hands fling murals upon high chambers,
His drama teaches a world to laugh and weep,
His music leads continents captive,
His voice thunders the Brotherhood of Labor,
His science creates seven wonders,
His Republic of Letters challenges the Negro-baiters.

The New Negro
Hard-muscled, Fascist-hating, Democracy-ensouled,
Strides in seven-league boots
Along the Highway of Today
Towards the Promised Land of Tomorrow!


V – Larghetto

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You send the tractors on their bloody path,
And create Okies for The Grapes of Wrath.
You breed the slum that breeds a native Son
To damn the good earth Pilgrim Fathers won.

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You dupe the poor with rags-to-riches tales,
And leave the workers empty dinner pails.
You stuff the ballot box, and honest men
Are muzzled by your demagogic din.

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You smash stock markets with your coined blitzkreigs,
And make a hundred million guinea pigs.
You counterfeit our Christianity,
And bring contempt upon Democracy.

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You prowl when citizens are fast asleep,
And hatch Fifth Column plots to blast the deep
Foundations of the State and leave the Land
A vast Sahara with a Fascist brand.


VI – Tempo di Marcia

Out of the abysses of Illiteracy,
Through labyrinths of Lies
Across waste lands of Disease . . .
We advance!

Out of the dead-ends of Poverty,
Through wildernesses of Superstition,
Across barricades of Jim Crowism . . .
We advance!

With the Peoples of the World . . .
We Advance!