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

The Hegira by Georgia Douglas Johnson


Oh, black man, why do you northward roam, and leave all the farm lands bare?
Is your house not warm, tightly thatched from storm, and a larder replete your share?
And have you not schools, fit with books and tools the steps of your young to guide?
Then what do you seek, in the north cold and bleak, ‘mid the whirl of its teeming tide?


I have toiled in your cornfields, and parched in the sun,
I have bowed ‘neath your load of care,
I have patiently garnered your bright golden grain, in season of storm and fair.
With a smile I have answered your glowering gloom, while my wounded heart quivering bled.
Trailing mute in your wake, as your rosy dawn breaks, while I curtain the mound of my dead.

Though my children are taught in the schools you have wrought, they are blind to the sheen of the sky,
For the brand of your hand, casts a pall o’er the land, that enshadows the gleam of the eye.
My sons, deftly sapped of the brawn-hood of man, self-rejected and impotent stand,
My daughters, unhaloed, unhonored, undone, feed the lust of a dominant land.
I would not remember, yet could not forget, how the hearts beating true to your own.
You’ve tortured, and wounded, and filtered their blood ‘till a budding Hegira has blown.

Unstrange is the pathway to Calvary’s hill, which I wend in my dumb agony,
Up its perilous height, in the pale morning light, to dissever my own from the tree.
And so I’m away, where the sky-line of day sets the arch of its rainbow afar,
To the land of the north, where the symbol of worth sets the broad gates of combat ajar!

(Appeared in The Crisis, March 1917; Appeared in Bronze, 1922)

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