The Negro Mother

The Negro Mother

—Children sold away from me, 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 realize the blessings denied 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 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 past 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.

by Langston Hughes

5 thoughts on “The Negro Mother

  1. I have heard the poem delivered on stage many times especially in high schools of Miami, Florida’s predominantly Black schools in which I taught. I am especially sensitive as my grandchildren (some by none blood related but through marriage)are pure white, others pure African American, others Haitian, Cuban and Italian and others African American, Cuban and Italian. I happen to be Roman, Sicilian and Spaniard. No one will knock us from those “stairs” without a fight.


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