Langston Hughes

(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967 / Missouri)

The Negro Mother

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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Thursday, December 18, 2014

Topic of this poem: mother


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  • Rookie Denise Dobie (3/6/2010 8:58:00 PM)

    this poem is so powerful, you can almost imagine thousands and thousands of strong black voices chanting it as a mantra, you can imagine thousands of black slaves, men and woman and children chanting it through the years, you can imagine the black mother in this poem telling her children while they sit upon her knee...the words in this poem are the most beautiful powerful inspiring words i have ever heard...... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Rhonda Porter (5/25/2009 8:09:00 PM)

    This was the first poem i did in front of my church when i was a little girl.I loved it then and i still love it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tori Frizzell (11/2/2008 5:45:00 PM)

    Wow this poem is so powerful. it gave me a glimps of how it far we have come, and how we as African Americans and people of all races worked hard to get to be equal American citizens and we should always always be trying to better our selves for our selves and for the people who worked to get us where we are today. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kia Jones (6/4/2007 12:19:00 PM)

    when i saw this poem i fell in love with it, i knew i just had to recite this poem to my english class. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tierra B. (4/4/2007 2:54:00 PM)

    me being a person of color we don't get 2 read many poems like this everthing now is about rump shackin and cruelty and 2 know about the harlem renacennce with langston billie holliday and 2 know how much we suffered 2 get this far is so amazing 2 me that is y I love poetry it is an escape from all this mess that is why i love this poem! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! : -) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sarah Perkins (12/19/2006 2:28:00 PM)

    This poem really cuts to the message of the oppression, and the cruelty that the black race has had to suffer. I think that this poem has a triumphant voice, showing that there is hope to overcome the tragedy of the past. Love it! (Report) Reply

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