LiFt EveRy VOiCe

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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
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
1905
1906

Bewildered we are and passion-tossed, mad with the mad-
ness 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
1910
1912

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.
1914

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
1915
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.
1916

Sensitive,
Exquisite,
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

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, 1920
1917

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
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.