Two Experiences of Being Black in America

These two poems by African Americans were written over 100 years ago.  Their messages of hope endure.   Even today, their words are timely and timeless.


Paul Laurence Dunbar

September  1890

Fling out your banners, your honors be bringing,
Raise to the ether your paeans of praise.
Strike every chord and let music be ringing!
Celebrate freely this day of all days.

Few are the years since that notable blessing,
Raised you from slaves to the powers of men.
Each year has seen you my brothers progressing,
Never to sink to that level again.

Perched on your shoulders sits Liberty smiling,
Perched where the eyes of the nations can see.
Keep from her pinions all contact defiling;
Show by your deeds what you’re destined to be.

Press boldly forward nor waver, nor falter.
Blood has been freely poured out in your cause,
Lives sacrificed upon Liberty’s alter.
Press to the front, it were craven to pause.

Look to the heights that are worth your attaining
Keep your feet firm in the path to the goal.
Toward noble deeds every effort be straining.
Worthy ambition is food for the soul!

Up! Men and brothers, be noble, be earnest!
Ripe is the time and success is assured;
Know that your fate was the hardest and sternest
When through those lash-ringing days you endured.

Never again shall the manacles gall you
Never again shall the whip stroke defame!
Nobles and Freemen, your destinies call you
Onward to honor, to glory and fame.


We Are Marching

Carrie Law Morgan Figgs


  1. We are marching, truly marching
    Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
    We are fearing no impediment
    We have never known defeat.
  2. Like Job of old we have had patience,
    Like Joshua, dangerous roads we’ve trod
    Like Solomon we have built out temples.
    Like Abraham we’ve had faith in God.
  3. Up the streets of wealth and commerce,
    We are marching one by one
    We are marching, making history,
    For ourselves and those to come.
  4. We have planted schools and churches,
    We have answered duty’s call.
    We have marched from slavery’s cabin
    To the legislative hall.
  5. Brethren can’t you catch the spirit?
    You who are out just get in line
    Because we are marching, yes we are marching
    To the music of the time.
  6. We are marching, steady marching
    Bridging chasms, crossing streams
    Marching up the hill of progress
    Realizing our fondest dreams.
  7. We are marching, truly marching
    Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
    We are fearing no impediment
    We shall never know defeat.


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