The Book of American Negro Poetry eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 148 pages of information about The Book of American Negro Poetry.

Throw the children into the river; civilization has given us too many.  It is better to die than it is to grow up and find out that you are colored.

Pluck the stars out of the heavens.  The stars mark our destiny.  The stars marked my destiny.

I am tired of civilization.


There is music in me, the music of a peasant people. 
I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing
    my songs of the cabin and the field.  At the
    Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome as the violets
    in March; there is always food and drink for me
    there, and the dimes of those who love honest music. 
    Behind the railroad tracks the little children clap
    their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle.

But I fear that I am a failure.  Last night a woman called me a troubadour.  What is a troubadour?


Once I was good like the Virgin Mary and the Minister’s wife.

My father worked for Mr. Pullman and white people’s tips; but he died two days after his insurance expired.

I had nothing, so I had to go to work.

All the stock I had was a white girl’s education and a face that enchanted the men of both races.

Starvation danced with me.

So when Big Lizzie, who kept a house for white men, came to me with tales of fortune that I could reap from the sale of my virtue I bowed my head to Vice.

Now I can drink more gin than any man for miles around.

Gin is better than all the water in Lethe.

    R. Nathaniel Dett


Staccato!  Staccato! 
Leggier agitato! 
  In and out does the melody twist—­
Unique proposition
Is this composition. 
  (Alas! for the player who hasn’t the wrist!)
Now in the dominant
Theme ringing prominent,
  Bass still repeating its one monotone,
Double notes crying,
Up keyboard go flying,
  The change to the minor comes in like a groan. 
Without a cessation
A chaste modulation
  Hastens adown to subdominant key,
Where melody mellow-like
Singing so ’cello-like
  Rises and falls in a wild ecstasy. 
Scarce is this finished
When chords all diminished
  Break loose in a patter that comes down like rain,
A pedal-point wonder
Rivaling thunder. 
  Now all is mad agitation again. 
Like laughter jolly
Begins the finale;
  Again does the ’cello its tones seem to lend
Diminuendo ad molto crescendo. 
  Ah!  Rubinstein only could make such an end!

    Georgia Douglas Johnson


The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

Project Gutenberg
The Book of American Negro Poetry from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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