African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Bertha Johnston, "I Met A Little Blue-Eyed Girl" (1912)

A certain element in the South takes pains to rear the children of the family faithfully in the doctrines of Blease and Vardaman. 'A Negro had been lynched in the neighborhood,' said a recently returned traveler, 'and crowds went out to see what was left of his body. The people I was staying with went with the rest and took their children--all but one, who had been naughty and was kept home as a punishment.'

I met a little blue-eyed girl--
She said she was five years old;
'Your locket is very pretty dear;
And pray what may it hold?'
And then--my heart grew chill and sick--
The gay child did not flinch--
'I found it--the tooth of a colored man--
My father helped to lynch.'
'And what had he done, my fair-haired child?'
(Life and Death play a fearful game!)
'Oh, he did nothing--they made a mistake--
But they had their fun, just the same!'

Published in The Crisis, July 1912

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