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

Maurice Corbett, "The Ku Klux Klan Born" (1914)

The Ku Klux Klan Born.

At length the whites became inflamed
With passion that would not be tamed
Until their feelings had found vent
In the accustomed punishment
Of the offender, nor did they
Dare now to do this in the day;
Thus came they to adopt the plan
Of the infernal Ku Klux Klan.

This vile mysterious order new
Had first the object in its view
Of placing Negroes in the plight
Of living constantly in fright
*Of midnight visitors "from hell,"
Who'd drink ten gallons from a well,
By means of a long rubber hose
They bore beneath their outer clothes.

Regaled were they in robes of white
Which could be seen the darkest night;
And, by a rod hidden from sight,
Could raise their mask-heads twice the height
Of common mortals, and each horse,
Like his weird rider, was of course
In trappings long and white arrayed,
Which thoughts of ghostly haunts conveyed.

Nor failed they in their sworn intent;
Those strange nocturnal riders, sent
Through Negroes' blood, a sudden chill
That made them subject to the will
Of those they served, and soon they came
To tremble, when they heard the name
Of Ku Klux Klan, from foe or friend;
Their wooly hair would stand on end.

This plan was worked with such success
That this new Klan did soon address
Themselves to use of leathern thongs,
For the correction of the wrongs
Which they imagined to exist
As a great evil in their midst;
Meant they to hold the Negroes down
By force and fear, on farm and town.

Women and men they soundly beat
For any cause which raised the heat
Of fierce resentment of some deed
By blacks committed. They decreed
To take advantage of the clause
Encouched within those recent laws
That gave to black men equal rights
Which lifted them to loftiest heights.

But whipping failed to cure the ill.
So next determined they to kill
All of the leading politicians,
White men or black, who held positions
Supposed to be of consequence
To stamp them men of prominence
For leadership in black men's eyes,
That men of note would recognize.

Some men w£re by them, foully shot
Whether their deeds were bad or not;
Others to limbs and posts were hung;
Others in swollen streams were flung;
Some had their persons mutilated,
And some were found decapitated;
Some left their children, homes, and wives,
And fled away to save their lives.

And yet these blacks were not deterred
From manhood's path, for they preferred
To sleep in death than again to gain
The fetters of a master's chain
Feel, crushing either limb or will,
So they determined they would fill
Like valiant soldiers, martyrs' graves,
Rather than be accounted slaves.

With courage bold, those faithful souls
In spite of threats, went to the polls
And cast their ballots for the men
Thought they most likely to defend
Their freedom from the fierce attacks
Which men would make upon the blacks
As citizens; but this incites
The pent up anger of the whites.

Published in The Harp of Ethiopia, 1914

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