Poem – The Negro Mother – Langston Hughes

Children, I come back today 

To tell you a story of the long dark way 

That I had to climb, that I had to know 

In order that the race might live and grow. 

Look at my face – dark as the night – 

Yet shining like the sun with love’s true light. 

I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea 

Carrying in my body the seed of the free. 

I am the woman who worked in the field 

Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield. 

I am the one who labored as a slave, 

Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave – 

Children sold away from me, I’m husband sold, too. 

No safety, no love, no respect was I due. 
Three hundred years in the deepest South: 

But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth. 

God put a dream like steel in my soul. 

Now, through my children, I’m reaching the goal. 
Now, through my children, young and free, 

I realized the blessing deed to me. 

I couldn’t read then. I couldn’t write. 

I had nothing, back there in the night. 

Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears, 

But I kept trudging on through the lonely years. 

Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun, 

But I had to keep on till my work was done: 

I had to keep on! No stopping for me – 

I was the seed of the coming Free. 

I nourished the dream that nothing could smother 

Deep in my breast – the Negro mother. 

I had only hope then, but now through you, 

Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true: 

All you dark children in the world out there, 

Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair. 

Remember my years, heavy with sorrow – 

And make of those years a torch for tomorrow. 

Make of my pass a road to the light 

Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night. 

Lift high my banner out of the dust. 

Stand like free men supporting my trust. 

Believe in the right, let none push you back. 

Remember the whip and the slaver’s track. 

Remember how the strong in struggle and strife 

Still bar you the way, and deny you life – 

But march ever forward, breaking down bars. 

Look ever upward at the sun and the stars. 

Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers 

Impel you forever up the great stairs – 

For I will be with you till no white brother 

Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.

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