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

Walter Everette Hawkins, "The Mob Victim" (1909)

The Mob Victim. 

And it was in a Christian land, 
With freedom's towers on every hand, 
Where shafts to civic pride arise 
To lift America to the skies. 
And it was on a Sabbath day, 
While men and women went to pray. 
I passed the crowd in humble mode 
In going to my meek abode. 
From out the crowd arose a cry, 
And epithets began to fly; 
And thus like hound they took my track—
My only crime—my face was black. 
And so this Christian mob did turn 
From prayer to rob, to rack and burn.
   A victim helplessly I fell 
To tortures truly kin to hell; 
They bound me fast and strung me high, 
Then cut me down lest I should die 
Before their savage zeal was spent 
In torturing to their hearts' content. 
They tore my flesh and broke my bones, 
And laughed in triumph at my groans; 
They chopped my fingers, clipped my ears 
And passed them round for souvenirs. 
And then around my quivering frame 
They piled the wood, the oil and flame; 
And thus their Sabbath sacrifice 
Was wafted upward to the skies. 
   A little boy stepped out the crowd. 
His face was pale, his voice was loud:
“My ma could not get to the fun,
And so I came, her youngest son, 
To get the news of what went on." 
He stirred the ashes, found a bone—
(A bit of flesh was hanging on) 
He bore it off a cherished prize, 
A remnant of the sacrifice. 
   Alas! no doubt, the heathen reads 
Of Christian lands of noble deeds 
By men with Christian hardihood 
To shield their race's womanhood; 
   And yet around my burning frame, 
Quivering by the scorching flame,
Their women danced around the scene, 
And each was christened "heroine.” 
They took my flesh as souvenirs, 
And showed their pride with yells and cheers. 
   And this where men are civilized, 
And idol worship is despised; 
Where nations boast that God hath sent 
The angel of enlightenment. 
But while you sing America's pride, 
Where men for liberty have died,
Compare the strain with double stress 
To her reward for harmlessness, 
When burning flesh makes sporty time,
And innocence is greatest crime. 
   O heathen minds on heathen strand,
What think you of a Christian land,
Where men and boys and women turn 
From prayer to lynch, to rob and burn, 
And oft their drowsy minds refresh 
Thru sport in burning human flesh? 
Yet none dare tell who led the band; 
And this was in a Christian land.

Published in Chords and Discords, 1909

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