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

Countee Cullen, "Black Majesty" (1928)

These men were kings albeit they were black:
   Toussaint and Dessalines and L'Ouverture;
Their majesty has made me turn my back
   Upon a plaint I once shaped to endure.
These men were black, I say, but they were crowned
   And purple-clad, however brief their time.
Stifle your agony, let grief be drowned;
   We know joy had a day once and a clime.
Dark gutter snipe, black sprawler-in-the-mud,
   A thing men did a man may do again;
What answer filters through your sluggish blood
   To these dark ghosts who knew so bright a reign?
"Lo, I am dark, but comely," Sheba sings;
   "And we were black," three shades reply, "but kings." 

Published in Opportunity, May 1928

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