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

Olivia Ward Bush-Banks, "Honor's Appeal to Justice" (1899)

Unjust, untrue, is he who dares
  Upon our honor to intrude,
And claims that with the sin of crime
  The Negro's nature is imbued.

Shall we keep silent? No; thrice No!
  We stand defenseless in our cause.
If voices fail to cry aloud
  And plead a right to justice's laws.

For who shall vindicate this wrong?
  Who shall defend our perjured race?
We must speak out with one accord,
  If we the stigma would erase.

The cruel hand that raised the lash
  To strike a wronged and helpless race,
Is stained with sin of deepest dye,
  And shows of brutal crime more trace.

I draw a picture of the slave
  Who meekly bowed 'neath stinging blows
And raised no hand in swift defense,
  To kill, to threaten, or oppose.

I hear from out his cabin rise
  Sweet songs of praises unto God.
E'en with his painful wounds he sings,
  And utters no resentful word.

I see him in the darker days
  When blood like crimson rivers ran,
And Southern slavers left their homes
  In answer to stern war's demands.

They left their lands, their kindred ties,
  Entrusted to the Slave alone.
Who faithfully and nobly strove
  To guard the sacred rights of home.

Yes; even lives were in his hands.
  Yet he, though held in slavery,
Upon his honor threw no shame,
  Or stain of criminality.

Today, on equal ground he stands
  With loyal, true, and noble men.
He loves his country, and remains
  A law abiding citizen.

He shares no part in daring plot,
  He scorns to hint of anarchy;
He only asks his native right;
  Can this be criminality?

Then, Justice! we implore thy aid.
  Thine arm can well supply our need;
Protect our name, assist our cause,
  For Right and Right alone we plead.

Published in "Original Poems" (1899)

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