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

Henry Davis Middleton, "The Door" (1904)

Despair and darkness veils the rugged way
   That winds o'er crag and barren plain and moor,
Where plods the fearless freedman day by day,
   Up to the open door.

Through the wide portals beacons break the gloom
   Now shadows flee, the night is almost o'er
And in the gloaming dusky freedom loom
   With faith, simple and pure.

O, cruel fate that beckons and betrays,
   'That shatters hope and fair forebodings dim,
All, all seems lost, labor of nights and days,
   The door is barred to him.

Exile or alien from far distant shores,
   Find a warm welcome wait their wiles or wares,
While noble natives languish at the doors,
   Denied their honest shares.

Relent, arrogant censors, heed his call,
   Nor mock his pains nor mimic his sad plight,
Your fate is tempted by his rise or fall
   Rather than by your might.

Let then the portals open full and free,
   The lustrous light its obscure threshold bare,
Merit alone should be the master key,
   Let all the worthy share. 

Published in The Voice of the Negro, May 1904

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