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

Hubert Harrison, "The Black Man's Burden" (1915)

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
Send forth the worst ye breed,
And bind our sons in shackles
To serve your selfish greed.

To wait in heavy harness,
Be-deviled and beguiled
Until the Fates Remove you
From a world you have defiled.

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
Your lies may still abide
To veil the threat of terror,
And check our racial pride;

Your cannon, church and courthouse
May still our sons constrain
To seek the white man’s profit
And work the white man’s gain.

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
Reach out and hog the earth,
And leave your workers hungry
In the country of their birth.

Then, when your goal is nearest,
The end for which you fought,
Watch Teuton trained efficiency
Bring all your hope for nought.

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
Reduce their chiefs and kings
To toil of serf and sweeper,
The lot of common things.

Sodden their soil with slaughter
Ravish their lands with lead;
Go, sign them with your living
And seal them with your dead.

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
And keep your old reward;
The curse of those ye cozen,
The hate of those ye barred

From your Canadian cities
And your Australian ports;
And when they ask for meat and drink,
Go, girdle them with forts.

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
Ye cannot stoop to less.
Will not your fraud of freedom
Still cloak your greediness?

But, by the gods ye worship,
And by the deeds ye do,
These silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the Black Man’s burden—
Until the tale is told,
Until the balances of hate
Bear down the beam of gold.

And while ye wait, remember
That Justice, though delayed,
Will hold you as her debtor, till
The Black Man’s debt is paid.

Published in Colored American Review, December 1915 attributed to "Gunga Din" 
Also published in New Negro, October 1919
Also published in When Africa Awakes, 1920

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