A couple of months ago, Son #1 had to do a project on an artist from the Harlem Renaissance. I thought I knew quite a few poets, but when he got the name out of his backpack, it was Sterling Brown, a poet who was new to me. As we got further into the project (and yes, this project was a "we" project-- and please don't send me any notes about parents who do projects for/with their kids because I am a teacher and I already know all of that stuff, but there is just something about slapping two pictures on a piece of posterboard that brings fuzz to my teeth!), I wondered why I had never heard of Sterling Brown. He was one of the first poets to publish in the black "vernacular." He was a professor at Howard University for 40 years. When he retired, some people wanted to rename the university after him. He is considered one of the founders of African American studies programs at the university level. He wrote books and essays and literary criticism.
Strong MenThey dragged you from the homeland, They chained you in coffles,
They huddled you spoon-fashion in filthy hatches,
They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease.
They broke you in like oxen, They scourged you, They branded you,
They made your women breeders, They swelled your numbers with bastards..
They taught you the religion they disgraced.
Keep a-inchin' along
Lak a po' inch worm…
By and Bye
I'm gonna lay down this heaby load…
Walk togedder, chillen,
Dontcha git weary…
The strong men keep a-comin' on
The strong men get stronger.
Read the rest of the poem here.
Poetry Friday is at Live! Love! Explore! Thanks for hosting Irene!