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

Joseph S. Cotter, Jr., "A Sonnet to the Negro Soldiers" (1918)

Dedicated to the Ninety-Second Division, U. S. National Army

They shall go down unto Life's Borderland,
Walk unafraid within that Living Hell, 
Nor heed the driving rain of shot and shell
That 'round them falls; but with uplifted hand
Be one with mighty hosts, and armed band
Against man's wrong to man- for such full well
They know. And from their trembling lips shall swell
A song of hope the world can understand.

All this to them shall be a glorious sign, 
A glimmer of that Resurrection Morn, 
When age-long Faith, crowned with a grace benign, 
Shall rise and from their blows cast down the thorn. 
Of Prejudice.  E'en through blood it be, 
There breaks this day their dawn of Liberty.

Published in The Crisis, June 1918

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