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

Carrie Williams Clifford, "The Jim Crow Car" (1911)

Of all things iniquitous that evil could devise,
   A thing that men of honor very justly must despise,
An institution infamous and more degrading far
   Than aught I know of, fellow-men, this is the Jim Crow car.

The good, the bad, the criminal are herded there together;
   Just so the skin is dark, no white would deign to question whether
The heart beneath was pure as gold or was with guilt allied;
   Not worth but color designates the place where one must ride.

He may have built, of modern times, the greatest institution
   For training hands; or may be of the vilest destitution
A perfect sample; but tho' he be artist, brute or sage.
   It nothing counts, he goes if black into the "Jim Crow" cage.

He may have won prized scholarships from greatest schools of learning.
   The fire of genius in his soul with mighty brilliance burning ;
His culture and attainments may indeed be on a par
   With earth's greatest souls, but he, if black, must seek the "Jim Crow" car.

And shall the strong be e'er deceived with thought that might makes right?
   And shall the weak forever yield God-given right to might?
Nay! think not, puny man, to alter one of God's fixed laws.
   For sure as darkness follows light, effect must follow cause.

And sure as nations disregard God's changeless plan divine
   To justly deal, show mercy, love and service intertwine.
So surely will his judgment fall with vengeance swift and true.
   On all who seek to thwart His will, His mandates to eschew.

And in His gracious message left to comfort breaking hearts
   He promises to rescue all from Satan's fiery darts
Who keep His law: there, too, we find the blest assurance given
   There'll be no caste distinctions in the glorious realm of heaven.

Nor bond nor free, nor Greek nor Jew, Barbarian. Scythian there;
   For all are one in Christ, all children of His loving care;
And when at last His little ones have crossed life's moaning bar,
   They'll ride in golden chariots, not in a "Jim Crow" car.

Published in Race Rhymes, 1911

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