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

John Riley Dungee, "Unwritten History" (1901)

MINE is the humble duty and endeavor to relate
A point of information that the hist'rics don't narrate.
Of our country's cause and conflicts, and the progress she has made
They tell us, but are silent on the part the Negro played.

We weren't at the discovery of this delightful land,
But throughout its development is seen our humble hand .
We felled the forests hewed the way for emigration's tide;
We reaped the grain and hoed the fields of cane and cotton wide.

We led the first resistance against the despot's sway,
When from our land he sought to take her liberties away.
We fought throughout the conflict with unselfish resolution,
And, vict'ry won, our suffrage helped to frame the Constitution.

'Twas not our fault our valor and devotion were forgotten;
'Twas not our choice that we were made the victims of King Cotton;
Unwillingly we were the cause, unfortunate, that rent
The Union we would willingly have suffered to cement.

Though our consent was not required, yet do we claim the merit
Of multiplying hoards of wealth for others to inherit.
Were half the country's lands and goods converted into gold,
'Twould not exceed the revenue for which our labor sold.

Our constant care and faithfulness were levied to provide
Comfort and case for those by whom our freedom was denied.
We tended them in infancy, in sickness and in age,
No want of theirs, nor whim, that failed our service to engage.

And when dread palpitation shook the nation's troubled heart,
'Twas our peculiar destiny to play a triple part.
While thousands fought their chains to break, some wrought to weld them faster;
Others remained the home on guard to aid and succor master.

With internecine clouds o'erblown, and peace again returned,---
And amity and happiness with our assistance carned,
Our service and our sacrifice we've failed not to devote,
Our country's cause to honor and her glory to promote.

Then wherefore do our virtues all escape the public eye?
Wherefore our imperfections do they seek to magnify?
How can our land, our native land, her treachery excuse?
The merit of our loyalty, how long will she refuse?

Of all the blood her freedom cost the Negro shed the first;
Of all whom freedom ought to bless the Negro fares the worst.
She never can repair the loss of what she took away;
The debt of gratitude she owes she never can repay.

The hist'ries we peruse in vain in quest of what I've stated,
Yet justice will admit my claim is not exaggerated.
In peace, in war, in church and state, in letters and in art,---
In every worthy work and way the Negro plays his part.

Published in Colored American Magazine, April 1901

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