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

Maurice N. Corbett, "Neither Emigration Nor Segregation" (1914)

Equal to those of any race
Which comes to dwell upon the face
Of this known Western hemisphere,
As sacred do his rights appear.
Let this to all the world be known:
This is the land he calls his own,
By birth, by sacrifice and toil,
And blood that drenched the thirsty soil.

Deceived are they who speculate
That they'll be forced to emigrate
To distant lands beyond the seas;
Remove such fickle thoughts as these,
And in their stead, bear it in mind,
That nations of the earth combined,
Them, cannot force to emigrate
Unless they them exterminate.

Here were they brought against their will,
Here were their hands refined to skill,
Here learned they of the living God,
Here rests their dead beneath the sod,
Here snatched they wealth from mother earth,
Here dwelt in sorrow and in mirth.

Here learned the sweets of liberty,
And here will stay until they die.
But thirteen years do separate
The whites and Negroes' landing date
Upon this cherished continent,
And it would seem impertinent
That one should claim lay to the place
And aliens call the other race
Which by their sides toiled night and day
The nation's corner-stone to lay.

In other lines, methinks I've shown
How, with the country's growth, he's grown,
How he in every war has been,
How he in every trade is seen,
How he the soil has come to own,
How he to heights of fame has flown,
How he has conquered ignorance,
How that he only asks a chance.

Suppose that he was forced to go,
Will some one well informed please show
The land, the place, the spot, the state,
To which could he now emigrate,
And build a nation of his own
Where to molest him there was none,
And where he'd have a chance to show
What he is well prepared to do?

His motherland—old Africa,
Is no more his than Canada.
'Tis swallowed by the white man's greed
To found an empire for his seed;
Apportioned are its fertile plains,
Its mountain slopes and vast domains
Amongst the European courts
By means of weapons of all sorts.

This government and tongue, blacks know,
And when to reap and when to sow;
How best a conflict to avoid,
How best their means may be employed,
What from the nation to expect,
And what is needed to inject,
Into the drowsy nation's pulse
So as to yield the best results.

We've shown they will not emigrate,
Nor will they ever segregate
Within the confines of a state
For reasons I enumerate:
Again, my words must I repeat,
No place is there to rest his feet
Without some form of government
Under the white man's management.

Never an acre or a field
Unto the black man will he yield;
Never surrender what he owns
Except for profit or as loans;
Never to black men lend a hand
To prove that equals they can stand;
Never their statesmen grow so bold
That they will such a doctrine hold.

Nor will the black man sacrifice
At the behest of enemies
His life's accumulation dear,
Because of prejudice or fear,
Renounce allegiance to his own
And hie to lands to him unknown;
The country of the white man too—
And there begin his life anew.

Happy would be the Negro race
If on this globe, there was a place
Where, unmolested might they be,
To work out their own destiny.
But, like the Jews, whose people roam,
With not a place to call their home,
Must they receive the world's applause,
And here, help shape the country's laws.

Oppression's rod, the Pilgrims sent
To settle in this continent;
They braved the dangers of the sea
To gain religious liberty;
Preferred they death from savage bands
To unjust blows from tyrant's hands;
They left for lands to them unknown
To found a country of their own.

And that new land to which they went
Was to their former government
An offspring, called a colony,
Which would pursue such policy
As might the motherland suggest
That the conditions fitted best
Another tract of land to bring
Under the banner of their king.

Oppression's ever grinding heel,
Severely do the Negroes feel.
Without the nation's sympathy,
Or country unto which to flee;
No means of transit do they own,
Nor will their white friends lend them one;
Tis therefore true that here must they
For generations have to stay.

To blacks who wish to go away
To other lands take heed, I pray,
Unto the warning given here:
No nation's borders, venture near,
Till you have reason to believe
That justice will your sons receive,
And that their service to the state,
The nation will appreciate.

A country need they like old Rome,
Where all .who entered, could become
Good Romans in the fullest sense
Who bared their breasts in its defense;
She did not dwell upon their past,
Or hesitate because of caste,
But, for their gallantry in war
Stood equals all before the law.

Let blacks who have a settled will
To emigrate, go to Brazil—
The only land we call to mind
Which has no caste or color line;
A country famed for vast extent,
But sparce indeed in settlement;
A country where each man is known
For good or ill that he has done.

Her fertile soil would yield produce
For more than half the whole world's use;
Her rulers stand with open hands
To welcome thrifty emigrants;
Her climate, very much the same
As Africa's, from whence you came;
Her people brave, her statutes just,
Her promises the people trust.

No other clime, no other place
Presents such promise to the race.
Her citizens, not white, nor red,
Nor black, nor brown, live not in dread
That they'll be known by act or law,
Save as Brazilians, similar
In treatment, point of law, and chance
Along life's highway to advance.

Published in The Harp of Ethiopia, 1914

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