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

Gertrude Mossell, "Tell the North That We Are Rising" (1894)


At the laying of the corner-stone of Atlanta University in 1879 occurred the incident recorded in the following lines.

There was the human chattel
Its manhood taking;
There in each dark brain statue,
A soul was waking,
The man of many battles,
The tears his eyelids pressing,
Stretched over those dusky foreheads
His one-armed blessing.

And he said: “Who hears can never
Fear for nor doubt you;
What shall I tell the children
Up North about you?"
Then ran round a whisper, a murmur,
Some answer devising;
And a little boy * stood up—“Massa,
Tell 'em we're rising.” †

Tell the North that we are rising;
Tell this truth throughout the land-
Tell the North that we are rising-
Rising at our God's command.

Could the bravest say it better?
Was the child a prophet sent?
From the mouths of babes and sucklings
Are the words of wisdom lent.

Tell the North that we are rising;
East and West the tidings go;
Tell this truth throughout the nation-
Tell it to both friend and foe.

Tell our true and tried friend Lincoln,
Tell our Grant and Sumner true-
Tell them each that we are rising,
Knowing we have work to do.

See the child before us standing,
All his heart and life aglow,
Backward flit the years of sorrow;
Onward hopes, bright visions flow.

All his life has lost its shadow,
Filled is it with coming light;
Hope and Faith again triumphant
Make the present glad and bright.

Thus the keynote of our future
Touched he with his childish hand;
In his words the inspiration
Lingering yet throughout the land.

And the brave old poet Whittier
Treasured up his song in verse,
That the myriads yet to follow,
Might anon the tale rehearse.

Those who then wore childhood's garland
Now are true and stalwart men;
Those who bore war's dreadful burdens,
Friend and foe have died since then.

But we still would send the message
To our friends where'er they roam,
We are rising, yea, have risen:
Future blessings yet will come.

Noble son of noble mother,
When our hearts would shrink and falter,
We yet treasure up your message,
Laying it on freedom's altar.

We with courage strive to conquer,
'Till as England's Hebrews stand
We are neither slaves nor tyrants,
But are freemen on free land.

*R. R. Wright, the little hero of this poem, has now grown to
manhood and occupies the responsible position of President of the
Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth.
† Whittier.

Published in The Work of the Afro-American Woman, 1894

This page has paths:

This page has tags: