Women of the Early Harlem Renaissance: African American Women Writers 1900-1922

Uncle Rube to the Young People

Press ahead, beloved children!
   Doe I will be dead an' gone,
Dah is great things waitin' fah you,
   Jest as sho' as you is bawn.

Yeahs ago,-- 'way back in slave times,
   'Fo' it seemed sech things could be,
Some ole people use to whispah,
   Dat some day, we would be free.

P'r'aps dey heard de white-folks talkin',
   Who wus lookin' fah ahead;
P'r'aps dey'd axed de Lo'd about it,
   An' wus tellin' whut He'd said.

Anyhow, de way wus dawker
   Fah de race, dan 'tis today,
Yet dey saw de light a-comin',
   Doe it wus so fah away.

So don't b'lieve de Lo'd's fahsook us,
   An' will no mo' show His face;
Ef He wus dat stern a Fathah,
   He done killed de whole white race.

Take new courage, den, my children,
   Don't lose faith, whute'er you do;
Ef He's patient wid de white-folks,
   He'll be patient wid us too.

Co'se we musn'n't 'pose upon Him,
   But mus' do de bes' we kin;
An' remembah dis, my children,
   Dat He wants us to be men.

Don't spend all yo' time a-parl'in' 
   Whethah things is right er wrong,
Ax de Lo'd to guide yo' footsteps,
   Den, git up, an' go right on. 

Some folks ax de Lo'd to guide dem,
   Den, when He p'ints out de way,
'Stid uv goin' on, a-trustin',
   Keep a ling'ring back, to pray;

'Case dey think it safer, kneelin'
   In some secret, sheltahed place,
Whaur de enemy can't find dem,
   Dan to meet him, face to face.

But I wan' to tell you children,
   Dat I know dis, fah a fac':
Ef you do dat kin' uv prayin',
   things is go'n' to go to wrack

'Case it ain't no use in talkin',
   Non uv us kin fool de Lo'd,
When we do dat lazy prayin',
   He ain't go'n' to hear a wo'd. 

Humph! we kin go on a-prayin',
   Dat fool way, yeah aftah yeah,
An' we'll fin' de same old bothah--
   Dat de Lo'd ain't go'n' to heah.

Way back--in de days uv slav'ry,
   Folks done nothin' else, but pray;
den, deir feet and hands wus fettahed,
   An' dey saw no othah way.

But de Lo'd has broke de fettahs,
   An de times has changed since den,
So dis younger generation,
   Mus' git up, an' act like men.

Don't spend all yo' time a-frettin',
   'Case de white-folks spile yo' chance,
Ef you's got de propah courage,
   Min'! dey can't check yo' advance. 

Co'se, dey'll give a sight uv trouble,
   Since dey's fo'most in de land,
But de re'l fate uv ou' nation,
   isn't in de white-folks hands.

So you needn't feah deam, children,
   don't fahgit whut David said:--
"Lo'd's my strength an' my life giver;
   Uv whom shell I be afraid?"

Ef you take dis fah yo' motto,
   You will fin',--whute'er you do,
Ef it's fah yo' life's up buildin',
   Dat de Lo'd will help you through.

An' another thing, my children,
   Don't git dis into yo' head,--
Dat, all dat He wants to give us, 
   is a little meat an' bread. 

Fah, I've learnt dis, in my life-time:
   Dat de Lo'd is bounteous,
An' He'll do great big things fah us,
   Ef we only learn to trus'.

Co'se, it's all right to be umble,
   Pride will often spile success,
But some people say dey's umble,
   When it's only shiftlessness.

Not a-tryin' to be successful;
   Puttin' up wid anything;
An' when othah people prospah,
   Makin' out dat it's a sin.

Mind de par'ble uv de talents?
   How de man dat had but one,
Went an' dug a hole, an' hid it,
   Waitin', till de mastah come?

Makin' out he feahed to use it,
   Said his mastah wusn't jus',
An' ef he should make a blundah,
   When he come, he'd make a fuss.

'Membah, when de mastah did come,
   How he took dat man to tes'?
How he took his talent fum him,
   Fah his lazy shiftlessness?

Don't you be like dat bad servant,
   Even ef yo' chance is small,
Don't git lazy an' discouraged,
   An' jest make no show at all.

Fah de Lo'd'Il increase yo' chances,
   When He sees you've done yo' bes',
But ef you refuse to use dem,
Some day, He'll take you to tes'.

Now I ain't a-quar'Iin' children,
   Doe my words may kinder goad;
I'm jes' p'intin' out de pitfalls,
   Dat you'll find along de road.

Fah dah's many uv dem, children,
   An', one uv de wust I know,
Is dis dreadful inclernation.
   Jest to set and let things go.

Spite uv all de odds agin us,
   Dah's a heap dat we kin do;
Things dat don't concern de white-folks,
   Things dat b'long to me an' you.

Learnin* to respect each othah
   Holdin' up fah ou' own race;
And a-keepin' down ou' envy,
   When one gains a higher place.

Learnin' how to usf ou' jedgement,
   'Bout de things dat come along,
'Stid uv waitin' till de white folks
   Say ef it is right er wrong.

Keep'u' faith in ou' own people,
   Doe dey make us sick at hawt,
Wid deir weakness an' deir folly.
   While dey're try'n' to git a stawt.

Fah dese great an' mighty nations,
   Dat's now rulin' land and sea,
Stawted out on next to nothin',
   Jest de same ez you and me.

An' I'm not a-boastin' children,
   Fah I know my people's worth:
Dah's ez good a stuff in our race,
   Ez in any race on earth.

But de race needs cultivation;
   I don't keer how rich de soil,
It ain't go'n' to bring forth produce
   Fah its ownah, 'less he toil.

Dat is why I keep a-sayin',
   To you, ovah an' agin,
Dat we's bound to quit ou' foolin',
   And git up and act like men.

Now, dis sounds like modern doctrine,
   Fah a ole-time chap like me,
But I had my own opinions,
   Even 'fo' dey set me free.

White-folks called me "Mistah Hawdhead,"
   And dey'd knock and cuff me roun',
But, in spite uv all de beatin',
   Dey jes' couldn't keep me down.

An' soon ez de Good News reached us,
   (Jiniwary, sixty three,)
I lit out an' jined de ahmy,
   An dey saw no mo' uv me

So I've been a-tryin' children,
   Evah since, to help my race,
Doe, sometimes I do so little,
   I'm 'mos' 'shamed to show my face.

But, doe we can't all be leaders.
   We kin do de best we kin,
An' dis is my pray'r dear children,
   May God help us to be men!

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