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

Olivia Ward Bush Banks, "Crispus Attucks" (1899)


The Nation's heart beat wildly,
  And keenly felt the coming strife;
The Country's call was sounding
  Brave men must offer life for life.

So long Great Britain's power
  Had sternly held unyielding sway,
The people yearned for freedom
  And cried, "Our blood must pave the way."

So, on the streets of Boston,
  Where madly rushed the British foe;
Men questioned with each other,
  "Who shall be first to strike the blow?"

Not that they shrank from duty,
  Ah, no! their lives they gladly gave;
But War, with all its terrors,
  Brings fear to hearts both true and brave.

But one, with fearless courage,
  Inspired them to activity,
And boldly led them forward
  With cheering shout, "For Liberty!" *

In face of death and danger,
  He met the foe, this soldier true,
Till, charging full upon them,
  Their bayonets had pierced him through.

He fell, and o'er the pavement
  A Negro's blood was flowing free.
His sable hand was foremost
  To strike the blow for liberty.

It was a deed most valiant,
  And mighty was the work begun,
For War then waging fiercely,
  Ceased not till victory was won.

Naught but a slave was Attucks,
  And yet how grand a hero, too.
He gave a life for freedom,
  What more could royal sovereign do?

Well may we eulogize him!
  And rear a monument of fame.
We hold his memory sacred;
  We honor and revere his name.

A century has vanished,
  Yet, through the years still rolling on
We emulate his bravery
  And praise the deed he nobly done.

Then write in glowing letters
  These thrilling words in history,–
That Attucks was a hero,
  That Attucks died for Liberty.

Published in "Original Poems" (1899) 

* Editor's Note: In the original printing we have looked at, this line ends with a question mark. It is also a question mark in various digital editions that are available online, such as the U-Penn digital edition. We believe the poet must have intended it to be an exclamation.

This page has tags: