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

Walter Everette Hawkins, "I Am Africa" (1928)

I Am Africa

By Walter Everette Hawkins

I am Africa:
     Black as the wealth of my coal mines,
     Black as the murk of my midnight;
     I built Timbuctoo and Karnak,—
     The temples of Isis and Osiris,
     The Alphabet

I am Africa:
     I am the Sphinx and the Pyramids,
     The rub and riddle of the universe,
     Defying time and the elements.
     Upon the bosom of my prairies
     I shelter the caravan of nations,—
     I lull them to sleep in my midnight,—
     I bury them in my Saharas.
     From the pinnacle of my pyramids
     I laughed at the legions of Caesar.
     Out of the night of my midnight
     Arose the hut of the Zulu,
     The wigwam and kraal of the Bushmen,
     The dynasties of Rameses and the Pharaohs,
     The palaces and temples of the Ptolemies.
     My daughters were queens in old Sheba,
     My sons were the kings of old Egypt; 
     On the banks of the Nile I have reared them,
     In immortal art I embalmed them.

I am Africa:
     Black as the night of my coal mines,
     Black as the deep of my midnight,
     Prometheus on the rock of adversity,
     The nations I feed on my vitals,
     I give food to the tables of monarchs, 
     My coal warms the palaces of princes,
     My diamonds deck the bosoms of queens,—
     The queens in the palaces of London,
     The salons of Brussels and of Paris,
     The salons of Berlin
I am Africa:
     On the fertile banks of the Congo
     My sorrow in song I have lifted;
     In the cane brakes and cornfields of Texas
     My sorrow songs still I am singing,
     I sleep ’neath the stars in the jungle,
     I am brother to the beasts and the leopard,
     The lion’s strength moves in my sinews,
     In my bones is the iron of my Africa.
     I worship the life-giving sunlight,
     Oblations I give to the moon,
     My gods are of stone and of iron—
     No greater than these have I found.
     I build temples which I may not enter,
     I garner the harvest but eat not;
     I gather the cotton in the Southland,—
     Give grist to the mills in the Northland,—

I am Africa:
     I laid down my life at Fort Pillow,
     My blood’s on the Common of Boston;
     I died on the flag at Fort Wagner,
     My bones lie bleaching in Flanders. 
     They lynch me and burn me in Georgia,
     My body is fuel in Texas,
     They jim-crow me even in Washington, 
     They mock me even from the White House.
     Black as the wealth of my coal mines, 
     Black as high noon of my midnight,—
     I am the nimbus of nations,
I am Africa.

Published in The Crisis, July 1928

This page has tags: