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

Langston Hughes, "Proem" ["The Negro"] (1922)



I am a Negro:
Black as the night is black,
Black like the depths of my Africa.
I've been a slave:

Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean .
I brushed the boots of Washington.
I've been a worker:

Under my hand the pyramids arose.
I made mortar for the Woolworth Building.

I've been a singer:
All the way from Africa to Georgia
I carried my sorrow songs.

I made ragtime.
I've been a victim:

The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo.
They lynch me now in Texas.
I am a Negro:
Black as the night is black,
Black like the depths of my Africa.


Published as "The Negro" in The Crisis, January 1922
Also published as "Proem" in the Weary Blues, 1926

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