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

Maggie Pogue Johnson, "The Negro Has a Chance" (1910)

The Negro Has a Chance
As my mind in fancy wanders,
While we figure on Life's stage,
While in queries deep we ponder,
O'er the past years ripe with age;
While sipping slowly from Life's cup,
And in tho'ts deepest trance,
This question often rises up,
"Has the Negro had a chance?"
'Tis true, they lived one life,
Thro'out the darkened age,
When 'mid events full of strife
They wrote upon life's page;
In darkest hours of the night,
Their soul would seem entranced,
Wondering if some time in life,
The Negro'd have a chance.
But now those days have gone,
And on Life's page are blank,
And sons of ages newly bern,
Are being placed in rank;
Just as they file in line,
To make a slow advance,
They read in front this sign,
"The Negro has a chance."
The doors are open wide,
That He may enter in,
And time ripe to decide,
Where in life he will begin;
And as he slowly turns Her page
He gives a quickened glance,
And sees in every avenue and age,
The Negro has a chance.
With outstretched arms the college stands,
And with inviting voice,
She gives the Negro Her demands,
To make befitting choice,
Of the station He would choose in life,
To make himself advance;
Now we've cleared away the strife,
And the Negro has a chance.
Our race needs fitted teachers,
Their knowledge to impart,
And elevated preachers,
With the work of God at heart;
Men whose noble work
Will have power to enhance,
Men who dare not shirk,
But bravely grasp the chance.
Then heed ye to this call,
Which means for a race success,
And what e'er may befall,
Bravely stand the test;
Let not fickle minds
Check your brave advance,
When every event shows the signs,
That the Negro has a chance!
The preacher needs your aid,
To help save Negro souls,
For the price so dearly paid,
That he may reach the goal;
He begs with earnest heart
That you lend a helping hand,
That in this work you take a part,
And heed the Lord's command.
The doctor gives a call
That you come into his field,
And as the sick and wounded fall
To their weakened voice you yield;
He sees your help he needs
As o'er his field he gives a glance,
And your steps he'll not impede,
But the Negro give a chance.
The lawyer opens up his book,
The leaves all dim with age,
And as he gives a steady look,
And turns from page to page,
He sees a page all blank,
And calls the Negro in;
Says he, "you fall in rank,"
In law you must begin.
The skilled mechanic works his way
As he performs his part,
He toils away from day to day
And well displays his art;
He loves his work with all his soul,
And in it he confides,
But soon before he's reached the goal,
The Negro's at his side.
The merchant takes his stand,
With ready merchandise,
He meets the world's demands,
And each day sells and buys;
But soon upon the scene
The Negro makes his way
And in the merchant's scheme
He, too, must have a play.
The carpenter now stands aside
To give the right of way
As slowly in the Negro glides,
Now he must have his day;
In carpentry he'll show his skill,
We may see this at a glance,
His soul with ecstacy does fill,
As he sees his future chance.
The tailor in his shop we find,
And as he cuts and sews,
He has his work upon his mind,
For the art in it he knows;
The Negro, too, has learned this art,
And so with weary brain
He toils away with earnest heart
That a living he may gain.
So, all these stations must be filled
As we journey on thro' life,
And we must struggle with a will
And aim to banish strife;
And when we've reached the topmost round
We'll send up notes of praise
To him our happy tho'ts resound,
To him these songs we'll raise.
And Negro, yea, of Africa's strand,
Ye strong men make advance,
We do of you make this demand:
With vigor grasp your chance!
Let not these happy moments pass,
But make good of each one,
And when you've reached the realms at last,
And work on earth is done,—
You'll soa 'mid scenes of beauty,
You'll live in seas of love,
When you've done your duty
To reach that land above;
And, Negro, be not far behind,
But on, yea, on, advance!
And when you've reached that dearer clime
You'll show you've had a chance.

Published in Virginiia Dreams, 1910

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