Thoughtful Thursday: Independence Day Inspiration

Happy Fourth! Today’s first Thoughtful Thursday offering is a moving poem about our nation written by Claude McKay, a Jamaican American writer and poet who figured prominently in the Harlem Renaissance.

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America

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Claude McKay
“America” from Liberator (December 1921).

The second bit of inspiration is a classic: the first stanza of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, the Negro National Anthem. I recall singing this regularly while growing up and working hard to memorize every line. Do your sons know this song, at least the first stanza? If not, sounds like a summer project to add to your list!

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift ev’ry voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

James Weldon Johnson

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