Claude McKay's Early Poetry (1911-1922): A Digital Collection

If We Must Die


If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe !
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

​(The Liberator, 1919. Workers Dreadnought, September 1920. Harlem Shadows, 1922)
​(Edited and Proofread by Brenda Martinez)

See Contextual Essays by Alex Thompson elsewhere on this site: "If We Must Die" in its Original Context; "If We Must Die" in Civil Rights-Era America; "If We Must Die" in England

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  1. Claude McKay reads aloud his poems