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

Charlotte E. Linden, "A Riot" (1907)

[Editor's note: The author of this poem lived in Springfield, Ohio. The events may have been initiated by people seeking revenge following racialized violence in the same town two years earlier. For further background on the Springfield, Ohio race riot of 1906, see Jack Blocker, Jr.'s essay here.]

The Riot in Springfield, Ohio, February 26, 1906. 

 When all was quiet and serene, a storm broke out at the dead, 
 And the roaring of pistols and firebells were heard; 
 On the sound of the midnight air could be heard 
 Loud voices screaming in agony great. 
 "Oh, what is the matter?" you could hear someone shout; 
 The answer, "My house is on fire! Someone put it out!" 
 Breathless the mob ran to and fro like a scout, 
 Putting torches and destruction to all that come about. 
 In the still of night, as horrible as death, 
 Comfortless and homeless so many were left 
 Hungry and clotheless in their awful flight- 
 Dear God, it was terrible at the dead hour of night! 
 This lawlessness has buried Springfield's great name, 
 But I hope business will go on just the same, 
 With her car-load of officers with salaries to pay 
 Not able to control this city today, 
 And we must be disgraced with a riot. 
 This is something awful in this great land today, 
 Where everything is prosperous and making a way, 
 To think peace is disturbed by the low and degraded, 
 And impeding progress by standing in the way 
 With their torches and pistols, taking the day with a riot. 
 O whiskey! that great evil that is doing it all, 
 But that is no excuse, let them answer the call 
 Of the strenuous law that is made for all, 
 And they will come to the conclusion when they have a fall 
 To be law-abiding citizens and courteous to all, 
 And there will be no more riot. 

Published in Charlotte Linden, Scraps of Time, 1907


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