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

Sarah Lee Brown Fleming, "Emancipation Celebration" (1920)



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! 

Published in Clouds and Sunshine, 1920

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