LiFt EveRy VOiCe

← EarlierMacro TimelineNext →

1900 - 1918

You'll bloom a rare high-minded man;
Surpassing fair-faced men;
Would God, the Future, hold for you,
The hope it holds for them.

“To a Little Colored Boy”
Priscilla Jane Thompson, 1900

Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

“Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing"
James Weldon Johnson, 1900

Unless you help to make the laws,
They'll steal your house with trumped-up clause.

“Booker T. and W.E.B."
Dudley Randall, 1969

Bewildered we are and passion-tossed, mad with the madness of a mobbed and mocked and murdered people [...]

“A Litany at Atlanta"
W.E.B. DuBois, 1906

I was fifteen when you took me,
Your daughter's nursemaid;
You brushed my cheek
With your red-plumed chest
Whispering Martha, Martha--
Piercing me with the name
Of your dead wife, my white half-sister
Whom I resembled.

“Sally Hemings to Thomas Jefferson”
Cyrus Cassells, 1984

He came, a dark youth, singing in the dawn
Of a new freedom, glowing o'er his lyre,
Refining, as with great Apollo's fire,
His people's gift of song.

“Paul Laurence Dunbar,"
James D. Corrothers, 1912

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

“The Tropics in New York"
Claude McKay, 1920
Olivia Ward Bush publishes her most famous poetry collection, Driftwood, reflecting issues concerning her heritage and identity as a Black and Native American writer and tribal historian. She would later become an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Then let me drift along the Bay of time,
Till my last sun shall set in glowing light;
Let me cast anchor where no shadows fall,
Full safely moored within Heaven's harbor bright.

“Driftwood (Drifiting)"
Olivia Ward Bush, 1914
(composed on June 12, 1898)

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile

“We Wear the Mask"
Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1895
The overtly racist film The Birth of a Nation premieres, celebrating the Ku Klux Klan and sparking the group’s resurgence throughout the United States. Many Black Americans, including William Monroe Trotter, protest the film and advocate for its ban.
Angelina Weld Grimke writes the anti-lynching protest play Rachel.

A black finger
Pointing upwards.
Why beautiful, still finger, are you black?
And why are you pointing upwards?

“The Black Finger"
Angelina Weld Grimke, 1923

On the no'thern road.
These Mississippi towns ain't
Fit fer a hoppin' toad.

“Bound No'th Blues"
Langston Hughes, 1926

Lo, he has learned his own immortal rôle
In this momentous drama of the hour;
Has read aright the heavens' Scriptural scroll
'Bove ancient wrong—long boasting in its tower.
Ah, he has sensed the truth. Deep in his soul
He feels the manly majesty of power.

“The New Negro"
Lucian B. Watkins, 1923

Brother, come!
And let us go unto our God.
And when we stand before Him
I shall say—
"Lord, I do not hate.
I am hated.
I scourge no one,
I am scourged.
I covet no lands,
My lands are coveted.
I mock no peoples,
My people are mocked."
And brother, what shall you say?

“And What Shall You Say?"
Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr., 1920

I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men.

“I Sit and Sew"
Alice Dunbar Nelson, 1918
The Messenger staff at work in their office, c. 1920. Front covers of the magazine hang on the back wall.
The Messenger magazine is founded. It would go on to be an important venue for Black literature, politics, and arts during the Harlem Renaissance.

And it's mighty poor religion
That won't keep a man from fear;
For the next place must be heaven,
Since 'tis hell we are having here.

“Here and Hereafter"
Walter Everette Hawkins, first published in The Messenger in November 1917