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
Underrated.

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:
Negro.

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