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

Elsie Taylor Du Trieuille, "The New Negro" (1928)

The New Negro

By Elsie Taylor Du Trieuille

“Hey there, Bub! I say!”
Silence. (“He knows my name.’’)
“Hey George! This way!”
Silence. (“Same, old, game.”)
“Hey, darky! You!!”
Silence. (“Same, old game.” )
“T’ll be damned if tain’t true!
N***** showing off, posing offense
At a name. Do you think I’d ‘Mister’ you!
Black beast! Any name
For you'd be an honor. Who
Looks at you, sees a cringing, tame 
Beast. Intelligence! Bah!
Blunt as pig iron. Black soul!
What’s in you to respect! Ha!
Ha! I could take the whole
Of your race and dam the oceans with its refuse!
Stinking flotsam! Black beast!
God! Who has use
For your carcass!”

So, at least,
Was this white man’s thought.

But out of this stinking flotsam, God
Wrought a young knighthood.
Sworn to their vows, with flashing sword
And dazzling shield, they stood—
A new order of Negro Youth, eager
For the quest of the Guarded Heights,
God bade them, “Go forward! No meager
Whims of men shall put to flight
Your soul’s great force. Wear
My favors, Vision and Love.
Evil shall glower, a few shall dare
To mock; but steadfast above
All pettiness, you shall stand.

“New Negro, sing your soul's own song,
Holy, majestic, grand.
Your notes shall lead a jeering throng
From baseness to nobility.
Dip your gilt-edged pen in the wellspring
Of your heart. With swift agility,
Fling word on word to pierce and sting
As the rapier thrust, men’s hearts.
Your daring pen shall slowly lessen
Studied, insidious plots
Of prejudice and inhuman oppression.
Open the flood-gate of your vivid soul.
On crested waves of creative
Genius, unveiled beauty shall roll
Forth, to transform, to give
New life to barren canvass. Men
Shall gaze astounded and their
Eager hands shall reach out then,
Not to despoil, but to share,
To possess the lofty inspiration
Pure art alone can give.

“New Negro, in this generation
You shall fully live.
‘The old order changeth’. Not
Mold of face, nor color of skin
Shall conquer the cruel heart
Of race tyranny, or bigotry, its kin.
They shall perish by your flashing sword
Of ability. Your shield, brightly 
Emblazoned with fine achievement, shall afford
Invulnerable armor for unsightly
Barbs of asinine abuse. Knights
Of the order of New Negro Youth,
You shall reach the Guarded Heights 
With weapons of integrity and truth.”

Published in The Crisis, May 1928 

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