Malcolm X–An Autobiography

I am the Seventh Son of the Son

who was also the Seventh.

I have drunk deep of the waters of my ancestors

have traveled the soul’s journey towards cosmic harmony,

the Seventh Son.

Have walked slick avenues

and seen grown men, fall, to die in a blue doom

of death and ancestral agony,

have seen old men glide, shadowless, feet barely

touching the pavements.


I hustler. I pimp. I unfulfilled Black man

bursting with destiny.

New York city Slim called me Big Red,

and there was no escape, close nights of the smell of death.

Pimp. hustler. The day fills these rooms.

I am talking about New York. Harlem.

talking about the neon madness.

talking about ghetto eyes and nights

talking about death protruding across the room. Small’s paradise.

talking about cigarette butts, and rooms smelly with white sex flesh,

and dank sheets, and being on the run.

talking bout cocaine illusions, about stealing and selling.

talking about these New York cops who smell of blood and money.

–by Larry Neal

We Wear The Mask

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,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!
–Paul Laurence Dunbar

“If We Must Die,” in Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursed lot.

If we must die, O let us nobly die

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!