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

Sarah Lee Brown Fleming, "Clouds and Sunshine" (Full Text) (1920)

[The following editorial note is by student Hannah Provost. -AS]

Sarah Lee Brown Fleming was a leading civil rights activist and writer who shaped the Harlem Renaissance. While her activist activities throughout her life are well documented, the power and impact of her writing has gained less recognition. Born in South Carolina in 1876, her family soon moved to New York, where she would become the first Black teacher in the Brooklyn school district. She married Richard Stedman Fleming in 1902, and after having her daughter and son in 1903 and 1906 respectively, moved to New Haven Connecticut, where she would spend the rest of her life advocating for voter education and equality.

Sarah Lee Brown Fleming’s writing career started with a novel, Hope’s Highway, published in 1918. The collection of poems that is digitized here, Clouds and Sunshine, was published in 1920. Her last known published work was published in 1926, and called Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction.

Clouds and Sunshine, despite the implications of its title, is a collection of poems that engages both with joy and peace, but also with the melancholy of struggling against a racist system that places Black people at a disadvantage, surrounded on all sides by discrimination. In all three sections of the poetry collection, “Clouds and Sunshine,” “The Dialect Poems,” and “The Race Poems,” Fleming articulates a warm reverence for Black bodies and Black joy. Indeed, her foray into writing from the position of the Black vernacular—a practice popular at the time—in poems like “Mammy” and “De Tango Lesson” exemplify this, though this same valuation and reverence is evident also in poems like “Radiant Woman,” which also engages with Christianity as a mediator of this respect.

Fleming’s activist commitments are mirrored in poems like “Tuskegee,” “The Black Man’s Hope,” and “An Exhortation.” In many of these poems, Fleming uses the legacy of slavery as a touchstone to indicate that the burden and pain of being Black in America has not been eliminated, though the institution of slavery ostensibly has. Iterations of this same argument reverberate to this day. The poem “Pictures” is the most ambitious in this regard, as Fleming captures pictures of history through her words—including ruminations on slavery, the Civil War, the falsehood of freedom, lynching, Jim Crow laws, and finally her vision of what the future of true freedom might look like. Painting this picture of the future, Fleming writes:

Tis not with master, whip in hand, 

But it is Black and White, alike, 

Holding aloft the stars and stripes. 

They’ve buried far beneath the sod 

Grim prejudice and all lynch laws, 

And all in one united band, 

Proclaim the freedom of the land. 

This recurrent optimism balances out Fleming’s repeated tactic of despairing questions regarding the discrimination she experiences and witnesses in the present. This optimism raises the question of intended audience, and how such rhetorical choices might have impacted Fleming’s creative process. For example, “The Black Man’s Plea” is clearly directed at prejudiced whites:

And do not chide this crippled race 

That, convalescent, tries to stand 

But totters still from slav’ry’s blow. 

Tear down your veil of prejudice, 

And look ye forth with naked eye 

Upon the field of wounded men. 

Yet Fleming’s optimism appears not only in poems which seem to insistence to white readers that Black people are flourishing and successful despite discrimination, but also in poems that seem directed at Black readers. Evidently, though there are shadows that creep into Clouds and Sunshine, Fleming is invested in keeping central to her work an ethic of optimism.





Author of Hope's Highway 



Copyright, 1920 








Dorothea i 

tuskegee 2 

Death 3 

When Love Sleepeth 5 

Come Let Us Be Friends 6 

Man's Inconstancy 7 

Comfort 9 


The Spirit of a Friend lo 

My Fortune ii 

The Witch 14 

Pal, Let's Be True 15 

A Nibbling Mouse 16 

Boy At School in England 18 

What Is It? 20 

Mammy 25 

De Tango Lesson 2.y 

Back-Sliding Liza 30 

The Lonesome Man 32 

The Black Man's Plea 35 

Emancipation Celebration 37 

Radiant Woman 40 

The Dying Negro 42 

The Black Man's Hope 44 

An Exhortation 46 

Pictures 48 

Night Song 5^ 

Put Away That Ukelele 53 






The stars in Heaven now shine with a fuller, gladder light, 
My days no longer seem a long and dreary night; 
Since thou dost love me dear, all things seem more than bright, 
Dorothea, Dorothea, my own Dorothea. 
If griefs and sorrows come, they do not pierce so deep. 
If tears bedim my eyes they are the bitter-sweet, 
If death doth part us here, I know somewhere we'll meet, 
Dorothea, Dorothea, my own Dorothea. 
And e'en though death does come, I'll always see thy face. 
Thy hand within my own I ever will embrace. 
Remembrance of thee in my soul will have a place. 
Dorothea, Dorothea, my own Dorothea. 




Sacred spot on which thou art, 
O school of industiy. 
Thou art doing well thy part 
To aid humanity. 
On thy consecrated ground 
Is carved a wondrous story, 
Out of chaos, Washington 
Raised this place to glory. 
The world has made a beaten track 
Unto thy very door, — 
A fountain on the desert sands 
Thou art for evermore. 




The spirit out of it hath flown, 
And left the body all alone, 
So after all, what is this clay. 
Which we so cherish, can you say? 
Look on this form now still in death. 

The force is gone which we call breath; 
The faculties, yes, evei-y one.
Have stopped their use, with spirit gone. 
O death, thou art so grim and drear. 

What awful silence thou doth wear. 

And thou must visit ev'ry one, — 

Yes, every being 'neath the sun. 


O, death, thou art a woeful state. 

All mankind well doth thee berate, — 

Because we know not what awaits 

Beyond thy grey, mysterious gates. 


Ah death, if I could truly say, 


"I fear thee neither night nor day!" 


If I but knew to what estate 


My wandering spirit might awake — 

I would not quake when thou art near, 

Thy presence I would not so fear; 

But 'tis the mystery that attends 

Thy awful mission, that offends. 




Love built a fairy bower, with roses red and white, 

And watched it ev'ry hour to keep the flowers bright: 


For oh, it was so fair, this bower which love did make, — 

A benediction, prayer, its perfume ever spake. 

And when the chill frost came. Love showered warmth and kisses, 

For whom Love doth caress, the frost he surely misses: 

But one night Love did sleep, the frost was round about, 

He pierced the roses deep to blot their sweetness out. 

Oh, desolation drear hath gripped Love's rosy bower. 

No brightness find we there, for Love hath lost all power, 

Ah, Love will sometimes sleep, too oft when needed most, 

And will not always keep forever at her post. 




Come, let us be friends, you and I, 

E'en though the world doth hate at this hour; I 

Let's bask in the sunlight of a love so high 

That war cannot dim it with all its armed power. 

Come, let us be friends, you and I, 

The world hath her surplus of hatred today; 

She needeth more love, see, she droops with a sigh, 

Where her axis doth slant in the sky far away. 

Come, let us be friends, you and I, 

And love each other so deep and so well, 

That the w^orld may grow steady and forward fly, 

Lest she wander towards chaos and drop into hell. 




The earth revolves, 

The sun doth shine, 

The moon at night. 

With stars divine, 

All tell us that 

Fond nature's way, 

Is much the same 

Prom day to day. 

We know at night. 

When tasks are done, 

We'll sleep to wake 

And greet the sun. 

We know the spring 

With gentle grace, 

To summer will 

Give up its place. 

What man is like 

Pond nature true? 

Can we depend 

On what he'll do? 

Today he steps 

With heavy tread. 

Tomorrow finds 

Him full of dread. 

Today he'll swear 

By all the gods 

You can rely 

Upon his words. 

Tomorrow, he 

Will say to you, 

"I did not speak 

Those words untrue." 

And so it is, 

Prom day to day, 

We can't depend 

On what men say. 

All thro' our hves 

We'll meet but few 

Whom we can trust, 

Whose hearts beat true. 




I take my cares to Jesus, 

And lay them at His feet. 

He will for every sorrow 

Give consolation sweet. 

Upon my head He places 

His hand so tenderly, 

He tells me that He giveth 

His love to comfort me. 

Oh Christ, Oh Benediction, 

Where could I go for rest. 

But here upon thy foot-stool, 

Or else upon thy breast? 

Dear Savior, I do feel thee 

Forever at my side; 

Take not from me thy presence. 

But with me e'er abide. 




Back to the dust went the dust of the body, 

But the spirit that turned to its Maker on high, 

Filled the air, as it passed, with so wistful a sweetness. 

That its fragrance will linger through years that slip by. 




A gypsy wandered by one day, 

When I was young and blithe and gay, 

She begged me in a way so free, — 

"Come, have your fortune told by me.'* 


Now certainly, if we could chance, 

To know our future in advance. 

Would we not think the matter o'er, 

Before the gypsy left our door? 


Well, this I did, in days before 

Experience had taught me; Lo, 

I told her I would pay her well. 

If she my future life would tell. 


I sat me down, and so did she. 

My hand she took upon her knee; 

"Ah, Miss," said she, "will you but hear. 

These rings you have shall cost you dear." 


The precious rings I treasured so, 


A mother's gift, if you must know. 

I said "If these I should not wear 

I'll take them off and hold them dear." 

"Ah, no," she said, "that will not do"; 

I'll hold them for a blessing, true. 

And when I give them back again, 

The world can ne'er more cause thee pain." 

*'Gypsy," I said, "I cannot part 

With these dear rings so near my heart, 

A mother's gift I must retain, 

Gypsy, you plead for these in vain!" 

She said, "If you'll not give them o'er, 

111 luck I see for you in store. 

Circles around thee do revolve. 

In blackness they will thee involve!" 

"Give o'er thy rings and thou shalt see 

Thy bondage turned to liberty. 

Riches and love and fame are thine, 

Circles so bright do thee enshrine!" 

Her eye was set upon my gold. 

Plotting for it her heart was cold ; 

No sentiment could change her aim, 

Her blood was up, for gold she came. 

Forgive me, friends, when this I say, 

I forthwith gave those rings away. 

I truly thought she had the power 

To change my fortune in that hour. 

I've Hved to learn since that sad day, 

That none can know — whatever you pay, 

Your fortune lies twixt God and you 

Who says he knows, he speaks untrue. 




Lo, the witch all skriveled and old! 

Come in and have your fortune told. 

She, by the aid of a magic wand, 

Can see the future in your hand. 

What in your hand she cannot trace, 

She'll surely find it in your face. 

She'll tell you when you're going to wed, 

If the friend long gone is ahve or dead. 

If you'll be ^oot or you'll have gold. 

Come in and hare your fortune told! 




Pal, let's be true, 

I wim will you? 

Our country calls to the strife. 

Come to its aid. 

Don't be afraid, — 

For it to save, what's a lie? 

Yes, we will go. 

Fighting? All more, — 

We'll never know a retreat. 

Proudly we move. 

And e'en will prove. 

Our fight the best in the feat 

Wonderful land. 

Think of the hand 

America takes in the nght. 

Hers is to brave. 

Hers is to save. 

For justice, truth and the right. 




The swiftest, nibbling, little mouse, 

Has made its home within my house, 

I set a trap both night and day, 

To try and catch it if I may, — 

This nibbling, little mouse. 


Today when writing at my desk, 

Out it came to make a quest. 

It ran around with so much glee, 

Seemed not a bit afraid of me, — 

This nibbling, little mouse. 


Straightway I rose and got my broom 

To chase the creature from the room. 

Round and round it scampered fast; 

Trying to catch, I darted past 

This nibbhng, httle mouse. 


We kept the chase up half an hour, 

Until I felt I'd lost all power 

To chase behind it any more. 

So left it prattling on the floor, — 

This nibbling, little mouse. 


All tired out, I then sat down 

And soon within a study, brown, 

I thought of phantoms, as they pass, 

And how thro' hfe we chase them as 

This nibbhng, Httle mouse. 

Yes, all thro' life we find it so, — 

Chasing shadows as we go, 

We almost catch them, but alas, 

They baffle us and slip on, as 

This nibbling, little mouse. 






Mother, could you but know 

What thoughts I have of thee, 

Your little boy so far away, 

In this land across the sea. 

Mother, could you but look 

Within my eyes so wet 

With tears, because I miss you so, — 

This yearning I regret 

Could you but listen as I talk 

Of love and home and you; 

My heart so fills I cannot keep 

The grief from coming through. 

Last night I dreamed I felt 

Your kiss upon my cheek. 

And thought I could not Uve without 

That touch another week, 

The boys aiomid have mothers 

Who see them off and on. 

Sometimes I feel so lonesome. 

As if mine were dead and gone. 

Oh, Mother, it is awful when 

A boy can't have the treat 

To see his mother now and then. 

Such luck, it can't be beat 

Say, Mother, won't you promise 

Then the next big ship sets sail. 

You'll come yourself upon it. 

Instead of sending mail? 




There is a subtle something 

That speaks where'er you go, 

By tongue it is not uttered, 

Than words it speaks much more. 

You go forth on your missions. 

And carry it along; 

It's like some beauteous flower, 

And like some soothing song. 

It's like some fragrant perfume 

That's wafted by the breeze. 

It gives out so much comfort 

It sheds abroad such ease. 

What is this subtle something? 

Folks ask me, and I say 

I cannot well define it 

Nor either teach the way. 

It is an inner something. 

I know that it must be 

Clear shining through your body 

And giving light to me. 

I love to have you near me. 

Just why I cannot say, 

But this I know, your presence 

Just changes night to day. 

Methought I saw a halo 

Surrounding your fair form, 

When you approached that mother 

Whom death had left forlorn. 

And then when asked for service, 

As fleet ful as a bird, 

You answered with a presence 

Which spoke far more than word. 

I would, if you would charge me, 

Perform some duty true. 

That I may ever daily 

Grow more like unto you. 

What is that subtle something 

You carry where you go? 

I long to have you name it 

Oh do, that I may know. 






Large of frame, black of face, 

Spotless apron 'round her waist, 

Teeth so pearly, eyes so true, 

Make you think of heav'n so blue, 

That's Mammy. 


Moving 'round the house with ease, 

Trying ev'ryone to please. 

In and out with so much grace, 

Acting like she owned the place, 

That's Mammy. 


Sister trudging down the hall 

Trips o'er rug and has a fall, 

Quick as lightning Mammy's there 

Fussing with the hurt and scare. 

Dear Mammy. 


Jane has fallen in the dirt. 

Soiled all her nice new skirt, 

Comes a-cryin' to the place; 

Stops soon as she sees the face 

Of Mammy. 


Mammy soothes the hurt and scare 

Till there's none left anywhere, 

With her "Hush, now Honey, do! 

Mammy loves you through and through/ 

Oh Mammy! 


Mammy now has passed away, 

But the memory lives today 

With me, and shall never die, 

Though the years go flitting by. 

Blest Mammy. 





Start up de ban' ! 

De men folks stan' 

And take yo' partners for dis 



Now step right so, — 

Light on de flo', 


Forward, — an* now backward 

you all mus' go. 


Don' step so hard, 

O, bless de Lord! 

See Jim done shp like 

de flo' is lard. 


Now start again, 

I makes it plain, 

Forward an' backward 

den ben' yo' frame — 


Now do it once mo', 

Den I'll say go, — 

And' keep up dat move- 

ment all roun' de flo'. 


Miss Nancy Jane, 

Ketch up yo' train! 

It mus'n't be a-draggin'; 

Does I speak plain? 


Look at dem feet, 

See how they meet. 

No regiment of soldiers 

is got dem beat. 


Now ain't dat gran, 

Jus' watch Jack Ran, 

He's leadin' dem dancers 

like a soldier man! 


Look at ole Pop, 

Jus' like a top, 

I ain't seed him move 

from dat one spot! 


Watch sister Cloe, 

How she do go, 

A-swingin' an' a-swayin' 


jus' watch her on de flo' ! 


Watch Ephraim's pace, 

Now ain't dat grace? 

Lor' help .me, dese darkies 

is jus' eatin' up de place! 



Just' watch dat time, 

How dey keeps in line; 

Lor' help me, dis music 


and dis dancin' is divine! 


Ah, let 'er go! 

Hear dat music flow, 

Dey's playin' dis tango, 

like dey ain't no mo! 


Lookat ole Pop! 

Make dat music stop. 

He's dancin' like de devil 


done nail him to dat spot! 


Here, clear de flo', 

Sam, ope' de do'. 

We ain't gwine to dance 

dis tango any mo'. 




What's dat Honey, you jis say, 

World ain't 'ligious in dis day? 

Bless my soul, jis' know dat's so? 

I done knowed dat long ago. 

Lord dis world does move so fas', 

'Ligion now's a thing o' the pas' ; 

Wonder what's the end to be, 

I don' know an' I can't see. 

All I know I'm satisfied. 

Lord I's stickin' on your side. 

Dere's my gal, — Liza Jane, 

Lordy me, dat gal is vain, 

All she thinks about is style. 

Lord, dat gal'll drive me wil'. 

Talk about your edication, 

Lize kin read thro' Revelation, 

But her 'ligion's been neglected. 

Lize's soul has ne'er been 'fected. 

Honey, don't you know dese schools 

Never had no kind of rules. 

All my money gone to waste 

Lize can't pray now, lost de tas'. 

What I gwine to do. Miss Ca'line, 

Wid dat wayward gal o' mine. 

Pray an' it will be alright? 

Well, I prays both day an' night, — 


Lord, do take dis gal o' mine, 

In dose mighty hands o' thine. 

Shut her eyes to all dis show, — 

So invitin' here below. 

Show her Lord, de perfec' way, 

I done foun' dis many a day. 

When she, Lord, Thy love confes' 

Shier her, Father, on Thy breas'. 




Little Rassus Wickens, sittin' in de do*, 

Mammy's gone to market, hear him cryin* low, 

"Mammy why'd you go an' lef me all a-lone, 

Fs yo' little Honey, Mammy, come back home.'* 


All de odder chil'n playin in de san' 

But dis little darkey is one lonesome man, — 

Listen to dose heart-throbs as he cries so low. 

Little Rassus Wickens, sittin' in de do*. 


Ah, within dat chile-breas', chile of darkes' hue,- 

Mother love is dyed in royal color too, 

Listen to dose heart-throbs, as he cries so low. 

Little Rassus Wickens, sittin' in de do'. 






Chains of bondage did imprint, 

Far deeper wounds than one could see. 

Sinking through flesh and blood and bone, 

They struck the deeper life that is 

Beneath the flesh, wherein doth course 

The blood that carnal life doth give. 

Their piercing darts did w^ound the hfe, 

That's more than carnal in the man. 

Stag'ring underneath the blow, 

Which quelled a hfe-blood for a while, 

And which today hath not regained 

Its former circulation. Life-blood 

That doth make men, men! Not the 

Corpuscles of red and white that 

Coursing through veins do lend them hue. 

But, life-blood that doth give that force 

Which makes a glorious race of men. 

And fills with pride and all things true. 

Giving an everlasting hope! 


Prostrate he lay upon his back 

Till freedom nursed him back again 

To perfect health? — Ah, far from that, 

'Tis long 'ere that can be enjoyed. 

The race, still crippled by the blow 

Is like a tree supposed dead, — 

Showing now and then some signs of life. 

Mankind! no blow is great as that 

Which strikes through flesh and blood and bone. 

And wounds the vital parts where lives 

The greater, nobler life of man. 

Ye who look without today, 

Upon a race of tardy men. 

Whose step is lax and spirit slow; 

Although they measure not with those 

Who, generations freed, have built 

What liberty alone can raise, 

Great monuments, — that do proclaim 

Much credit to their mighty minds. 

Forbearance, do I ask of you. 


And do not chide this crippled race 

That, convalescent, tries to stand 

But totters still from slav'ry's blow. 

Tear down your veil of prejudice. 

And look ye forth with naked eye 

Upon the field of wounded men. 

See, some do rise above that plain 

Of desolation and despair. 

And still go forth with willing hands 

To turn the wheels of progress too. 

In spite of all that was and is. 




Dear friends, we're gathered here tonight, 

To celebrate a great birth-right; 

Which came to us when Lincoln said 

That bondage must be stricken dead; 

Or else the country great and grand, 

Would totter so it could not stand. 

To him appeared in Spirit bold. 

The great George Washington of old. 

Said he, "This conflict cannot last. 

It drains our country's hfe blood fast. 

Haste Lincoln! set these people free, 

It is not right, it must not be. 


So Lincoln we all know so well, 

Did set them free. Could I but tell 

What shouts arose when bonds were broke. 

The country trembled at the stroke 

When slav'ry fell. A few remain. 

The G. A. R.'s, to tell again 

How on the field of fire and blood 

They risked their lives, and bravely stood 

To help the cause, with all their might. 

Dear friends, they are our guests to-night, 

Since dear old Lincoln is not here, 

They are the next to him most dear. 


From slavery forth, without one cent, 

With spirit broke, my people went 

To wander in the world so cold ; ' 

To find a place, and oft were told, 

Your pedigree we cannot trace, — 

You're classed with an unfavored race. 

Forthwith they went with awful taint. 

The nature now I will not paint; 

The chattels of another race. 

O God, 'twas hard to find a place. 

Who says the race has not progressed? 

He doth not know, we've had the test. 


Despite these drawbacks ev'ry one. 

We're here to tell what we have done. 

And say, if some do not advance 

As people do who've had the chance 

Of longer years than we've been free. 

Just reason why and you shall see. 

See what we've done in fifty years! 

Another fifty are my prayers 

The man unborn will yet perceive 

A progress now we can't conceive. 

He to the world will then expose, 

A worthier race and how it rose. 

We've gone part way and I discern 

The light of hope as it doth burn. 

Plod on, my race, to reach the goal ; 

The path is rough, but that's the toll. 

Plod on, to get with all our might. 

The things we ought with our birthright! 






I passed among the lowly poor, 

Within a little street, 

A mother sat within her door, 

A baby at her feet. 

In speaking of that mother, 

I cannot say that she 

Had pedigree behind her. 

The same as you, or me. 

For she was bound in body, 

(As some are wont to say). 

Her race, not very lofty. 

Was being crushed that day. 

'Tis sad it is the custom. 

In this enlightened time. 

That people, not in wisdom. 

Are prone to draw a line, — 

And say that human creatures. 

Because their skin is black. 

Because they've ugly features. 

Must all be pushed right back. 

This mother as she sat there, 

Did open up to me, 

A realm, so full of grandeur, 

Prom darkness, oh, so free! 

Her face though in its blackness, 

Was radiant as the sun. 

Her features, plain and homely, 

Seemed glorious ev'ry one. 

What was this revelation, 

I asked myself that day? 

That wondrous penetration. 

That to my soul made way? 

yes, 'twas more than human. 

I must in truth admit. 

I saw more than the woman 

Who in the door did sit. 


I saw that inward something 


A-calling out to me, — 

"Look you beyond the body, 


Divinity you'll see!" 

The look that was so glorious, 

Transplanted on that face. 

Told me a Christ victorious. 

Had in her heart found place. 





Seems to me in lookin' over yonder, 

I see the day a-growin' very dark, 

Seems to me while in dis' Ian' I wander, 

No joyful song is heard from sin gin' lark. 

Seems to me some lonesome note is stealin', 

O'er barren waste, from achin' people's souls. 

Seems to me I hear some lips repeatin' 

"That sorrow in dis' Ian' like waves do roll." 

Seems to me I hear some distant voices 

Echoin' forth from slav'ry times to me 


Seems to me they ask me what I sigh for 

And tells me to be happy 'cause I'm free. 


Seems to me I answer an' I tells them 

That slav'ry's chains are broken off my ban's. 


Seems to me those very chains are bindin' 

My soul so close and closer with their ban's ! 


Seems to me I hear my people sighin'. 


For help, God's help, in dis ungrateful Ian', 

Seems to me I hear my people ci-yin' 


''These burdens Lord are more than we can 



Seems to me the freedom that we cherished 

Is bein' robbed from out our very lives, 


Seems to me that which wx thought had perished 

Is growin' now to one enormous size. 


Seems to me I hear some holy voices, 

A-chantin' now some heav'nly song to me, 


Seems to me my soul within rejoices, 


For death at las' has come to make me free ! 




I hear the talk of the white man's hope 

In the ring and at the poll, 

But never a word of the black man's hope 

Do I hear as time doth roll. 

Bowed with the weight which slavery left 

Upon his chattled frame, 

No star of hope comes into view 

The weight is still the same. 

O prejudice, cursed prejudice, 

'Tis thou that blights the way. 

And makes us feel there is no hope 

There is no fairer day. 

Thou poisoned venom, prejudice, 

Who gavest thee thy birth? 

Art bom of devil or of man, 

How earnest thou on earth? 

Fve heard it said that some believe, 

That God so in his love 

Ordained that man be bound to mian, 

Do you believe the above? 





Do you believe such laws are made 

That blacks should till the soil, 

While other races reign supreme, 

Removed from all such toil? 

Why, God created all men here 


Upon one level plane. 

All bodies of the dust were made, 


To dust must go again. 


Then why should color play such part 


Upon this mortal earth? 

No man has power to change his skin, 






Is there no prophet, seer nor bard, 


At this compelHng time. 

To sing a song or say a word. 


Or even write a line? 

Is there an ear that will not hear, 


The wails, the groans of men. 

Of suckling infants, babes unborn. 


Oh, who will ease their pain? 


Is there a mouth that will not speak. 


Of wrongs they do endure, 

No tongues that in a language may 


Some remedy outpour? 

Speak, oh, ye long dumb mouths, oh speak, 


And to a people tell 

The burden forced upon you now 


Makes earth to you a hell. 


A battle fierce is raging, 


Unhke the usual fray, 

*Tis worse than other conflicts 


That are fought by night or day. 

Those men at last find succor, 


The helpless blind and lame. 

But none comes to that woeful depth, — 


The heart, when full of pain. 

This pain's an awful burden, 


To trudge on day by day. 

It crushes soul and body 


And makes indifference play; 

It shoots right to the marrow 


Of life, its hopes, and oh, 

Threatens the very right to live, 


Tries manhood to o'erthrow. 


O bards, who in the days of yore. 


Did move a nation's heart. 

Who with your great and glorious strain 


Did still a turbulent mart. 

Come sing again another strain 


Of duty, and above 

All else, oh, sing that glorious strain, — 


That wondrous strain of love. 


Sing them a wondrous story 


This burdened race of men. 

Paint it with all the glory that 


Can come forth from your pen. 

Set it to tuneful melody. 


As ever man did hear. 

So that a race benighted 


Will sing with heartiest cheer. 






Gaze on this picture of the past, 

See cruel master, whip in hand. 

Upon yon slave, whose back is bent, 

Scourge upon scourge he letteth fall. 

**My God, my God!" the slave doth cry, 

"How long shall I these burdens bear?" 

"To work, to work," the master cries, 

"Go fill my coffers with thy bra^vn." 

Who doth not know, who hath not felt, 

For those who lived in that sad time? 

What is the life of him who slaves. 

Whose body is not called his own? 

They bore the stripes, endured the pain, 

With not one murmur but to pray. 

They sang the songs we all do know, 

The songs that we shall sing again. 

These prayers and songs were wafted up. 

And, oh, they were so wondrous sweet. 

They reached a throne where sits a Judge 

Who judgeth slow but judgeth well. 

They listened and they heard response — 

"I will repay, I will repay!" 




Then discord rose twlxt North and South, 

'Twas over slaves, you know it well. 

Came Ab'ram Lincoln to the front, 

A bloody battle to pursue. 

See war in all its dreadful state, — 

A scourge of men these battles are: 

A price was paid so dear in blood. 

By North and South in that great war, 

That not a home was left without 

Some loved one gone forevermore. 

A cry was made for volunteers 

Who'll answer it? Ah, you can tell. 

See black men marching to the front, 

With steady step and wondrous stride. 

How fearlessly they go to die ! 

And yet they say we are afraid 

To risk our lives for a great cause. 

Yet I believe that you or I 

If needed at some future time, 

Will march as proudly to the front 

As they did then in sixty-three. 




The war is o'er, the slaves are free. 

They walk abroad as man with man. 

But note the frown upon the brow 

Of yonder man whose skin is fair. 

"I will not walk, as man with man. 

With yonder black," I hear him say, 

"He was not made to cope with me. 

Who rule this land, whose skin is fair."

Then what is this I see unearthed, 

So soon as slavery's debt is paid? 

'Tis prejudice, cursed prejudice, 

Another form of slavery. 




See yonder mob, full fifty strong, 

Hound that poor lad of Negro blood. 

He fleeth to the woods, and oh. 

They set the dogs upon his trail. 

At last he's caught, and lo, what then? 

They string him to yon leafless tree. 

And to his clothes they put a flame, 

And now he's in eternity. 




Not wanted here, not wanted there, 

Such signs go up all o'er the land. 

My God, then are my people free! 

No vote for you, no vote for me. 

Have we not borne the stripes enough. 

Our cry goes up, — *'How long, how long!" 




Let's leave these pictures of the past. 

And pictures of the present time, 

And wander on and on and on. 

Unto some great approaching dawn. 

My final picture is this one,

'Tis not with master, whip in hand, 

But it is Black and White, ahke. 

Holding aloft the stars and stripes. 

They've buried far beneath the sod 

Grim prejudice and all lynch laws, 

And all in one united band. 

Proclaim the freedom of the land. 

List, up to heaven there goes a sigh 

Of long restraint, and then a cry, — 

* 'Praise God we're free, at last we're free." 







Honey, take yo* res, on yo' Mammy's breas'. 


See dat light a-fadin' 'mong de pine trees in de wes
Yes, de day is gone, night is comin' on, 
Darksome night mus' come to us before another dawn. 



Whippo-will is callin', calhn' to his mate, 

Mockin'-bird is calhn' too. 

Pine trees is a-sighin', babies is a-cryin', 

As the dark-some night is passin' through. 

Go to sleep, ma little honey, go to sleep. 

Shut yo' weary eyelid an' don' you weep. 

Sleep and take yo' res', 

On yo' Mammy's breas', 

Night can never harm you here. 



Honey, don' you see, dat it's got to be. 

Day an' night, yes, day an' night, until yo' spirit's free. 


Den you'll quit ma breas', fer to go an' res' 

Wid Anodder, who can pro-tec' you from harm 

de bes'I 











Don't you hear old Orpheus calling to you, Alexander Poe? 

He says just quit that ukelele and play on the old banjo, 


Those Honolulu jingles like the dog has had its day, 


Go put the faithful banjo down, put the ukelele away. 

Chorus : 


Way down upon the, — I'm coming, yes, I hear that music, oh. 


Put away that ukelele man, and play on the old banjo. 




Put away that ukelele, bring me down the old banjo. 

Sing again for me the tunes I love, Swanee River and Old Black Joe, 

Then play for me those melodies my mother used to hum, 

That between each syncopating note, the banjo went "Tum, tum." 

Chorus: Way down upon the, etc. 


This page has paths:

This page has tags: