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

I.C.B. "Thirteen Black Martyrs of Houston" (1923)

With respectful reference to an article on the same tragedy by Archibald Grimke, in the Messenger, October, 1919.
[Editor's Note: See Archibald Grimke's poem from 1919]

I stand in awe and . . .
Bow my head in shame
That in this land of boasted.
Free, nntrampled justice
And Christian Rule —so called—
Lynching still holds sway!

Oh, ye ! whose blood has . . .
Not turned yellow, but —
Still runs crimson, as in
Mother's sacred womb,
Can ye, with inborn conscience
Give "unwritten" Lynch Law— room?

I dare say: "No!"
No self-respecting mortal
Who loves humanity and
Submits to white man's "written" laws.
Condones such jackal, cut-throat practice,
That chokes great Lincoln's aim with . . .
"Hyena Claws!"

Yet, notwithstanding all,
Our black boys fought like heroes
To save this white man's country
From an unknown foreign foe.
Their noble deeds were heralded by allies
In France, in Belgium and in England too.

The beaten foe himself,
Feels conscience-bound to honor
The black man's valor and his daring deeds ;
But Southland . . . Home !—with Houston —
   Texas leading.
Insults parading heroes on return; Oh, Shame!

What then? Some heart-sick boys resented
The unjust treatment meted out to them.
When quickly organized a rabble, ready
For record-breaking savage cruelty,
And hanged the boys that risked their lives for them.

Thirteen souls of colored Martyrs,
Freed and gone before their Master,
Pleading Justice, Justice only!
For their people, who, though black
Gave their loved ones to the country;
"Colored people do not slack."

God. who calls all men His children.
Asking Race or Creed of none,
Said, He made us in His Image!
Surely! Justice will be done!
Southland! Take the "White Voice" warning,
Grant it, ere God's Curse has come.

Published in The Messenger, April 1923

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