Hubert Harrison

THE BLACK MAN'S BURDEN (A REPLY TO RUDYARD KIPLING)

from When Africa Awakes (New York, 1920)

 

Take up the Black Manís burden---

Send forth the worst ye breed,

And bind our sons in shackles

To serve your selfish greed;

To wait in heavy harness

Be-devilled and beguiled

Until the Fates remove you

From a world you have defiled.

 

Take up the black Manís burden---

Your lies may still abide

To veil the threat of terror

And check our racial pride;

Your cannon, church and courthouse

May still our sons constrain

To seek the white manís profit

And work the white manís gain.

 

Take up the Black Manís burden---

Reach out and hog the earth,

And leave your workers hungry

In the country of their birth;

Then, when your goal is nearest,

The end for which you fought

Watch otherís trained efficiency

Bring all your hope to naught.

 

Take up the Black Manís burden---

Reduce their chiefs and kings

To toil of serf and sweeper

The lot of common things:

Sodden their soil with slaughter,

Ravish their lands with lead;

Go, sign them with your living

And seal them with your dead.

 

Take up the Black Manís burden---

And reap your old reward;

The curse of those ye cozen,

The hate of those ye barred

From your Canadian cities

And your Australian ports;

And when they ask for meat and drink

Go, girdle them with forts.

 

Take up the Black Manís burden---

Ye cannot stoop to less.

Will not your fraud of "freedom"

Still cloak your greediness?

But, by the gods ye worship,

And by the deeds ye do,

These silent, sullen peoples

Shall weigh your gods and you.

 

Take up the Black Manís burden---

Until the tail is told,

Until the balances of hate

Bear down the beam of gold.

And while ye wait remember

The justice, though delayed

Will hold you as her debtor

Till the Black Manís debt is paid.