A New Song- Langston Hughes





“I speak in the name of the black millions
Awakening to action.
Let all others keep silent a moment
I have this word to bring,
This thing to say,
This song to sing:
Bitter was the day
When I bowed my back
Beneath the slaver’s whip.

That day is past.

Bitter was the day
When I saw my children unschooled,
My young men without a voice in the world,
My women taken as the body-toys
Of a thieving people.

That day is past.

Bitter was the day, I say,
When the lyncher’s rope
Hung about my neck,
And the fire scorched my feet,
And the oppressors had no pity,
And only in the sorrow songs
Relief was found.

That day is past.

I know full well now
Only my own hands,
Dark as the earth,
Can make my earth-dark body free.
O thieves, exploiters, killers,
No longer shall you say
With arrogant eyes and scornful lips:
‘You are my servant,
Black man-
I, the free!’

That day is past-

For now,
In many mouths-
Dark mouths where red tongues burn
And white teeth gleam-
New words are formed,
With the past
But sweet
With the dream.
Strong and sure,
They sweep the earth-

Revolt! Arise!

The Black
And White World
Shall be one!
The Worker’s World!
The past is done!
A new dream flames
Against the

original ending:

“New words are formed,
With the past
And sweet
with the dream.
Tense, silent,
Without a sound.
They fall unuttered–
Yet heard everywhere:

Take care!

Black world
Against the wall,
Open your eyes—

The long white snake of greed has struck to kill!

Be wary and
Be wise!
The darker world
The future lies. “


  1. acilius

     /  January 21, 2009

    Terrific poem! Mrs Acilius and I heard a story on the radio yesterday morning about a 105 year old African American woman who was going to the inauguration. Her caregivers didn’t think it would be a good idea for her to take a long car ride and then sit outside in the cold for several hours, so they tried to dissuade her. Apparently she didn’t get to be 105 years old by taking no for an answer, so she went. They talked to her, she was very impressive, quick-witted, well-informed, and thoughtful.

    Anyway, the world that lady knew when she was young is what I thought of each time I read “That day is past.” She knew people, members of her family, who had been slaves. How far our country has come in one lifetime. It’s beyond imagining how far we might be able to progress in the next 105 years.

  2. cymast

     /  January 21, 2009

    Hurray for letting people decide for themselves!

  3. believer1

     /  January 21, 2009

    Thanks for that poem. I was so happy and thoughtfful yesterday. I loved watching the people watching the parade. Some were jogging along the sidelines to keep up with the Obamas. I Cried.

  4. cymast

     /  January 21, 2009

    Yeah, I watched too. I was/am recovering from a nasty 4-day bout with what I guess was salmonella poisoning, but I just had to see what was going on. I flipped to a non-inauguration channel for the invocation. Later, I watched Keith Olbermann and the blow-by-blow of the balls. Wow that sounds um . . Anyway, love Olbermann!

  5. acilius

     /  January 21, 2009

    Olbermann is a little too far over the top for me. Rachel Maddow is the queen of news.

  6. cymast

     /  January 21, 2009

    “Too far over the top”? Too much editorializing?

    Maddow I find irritating. Not sure why.

  7. acilius

     /  January 22, 2009

    Not only too much editorializing, but too much “Look at meeee!” attitude throughout the program.

  8. cymast

     /  January 22, 2009

    Oh . . I guess I don’t mind that, as long as the diva says something thoughtful and intelligent.

  9. cymast

     /  January 22, 2009

    Point of clarification: I flipped to a non-inauguration channel for the invocator, rather than the invocation.

    And I guess I don’t like the way Maddow looks, and I find her facial expressions unprofessional and amateurish.

  10. acilius

     /  January 22, 2009

    I wasn’t happy with the Warren pick either- many of the primary voters and key people responsible for Obama getting the nomination were members of sexual minorities. So why on earth would he give the biggest supporting part at the inauguration to an antigay crusader? The ethanol lobby was also crucial to his nomination- how would they react if Mr O had chosen a preacher who had campaigned against the ethanol subsidy? We’ll never know, because he’s a smart enough pol that he’d never dare to cross them. They can’t be counted on to let politicians take them for granted.

    I have the opposite reaction to Maddow’s looks. I see her as fresh and different, not processed like the others. Olbermann seems like a professional, but not a professional reporter- more like a professional clown.

  11. cymast

     /  January 22, 2009

    A professional CLOWN??



    OK then.

  12. cymast

     /  January 22, 2009

    Yeah Obama picking Warren made no sense to me. He said he picked him to be inclusive. WTF?! Obama should stop supporting hate churches already.

  13. acilius

     /  January 23, 2009

    Not only was Mr O slapping some of his most devoted supporters in the face by choosing Warren, but Warren didn’t even do a good job. If he’d been warming up his own congregation for a sermon from a guest speaker, it might have been passable, but in that setting it was a cheeseball performance. First big letdown from the new POTUS.

  14. acilius

     /  January 23, 2009

    Oh, and I don’t really mean to be so harsh about Olbermann. It’s just that a little bit of him goes a long way with me.

  15. cymast

     /  January 23, 2009

    A cheeseball performance? I almost want to watch it now.

    And the first of many letdowns from B.O., I’m sure.

  16. acilius

     /  January 23, 2009

    I’m sure there will be many letdowns. Honestly, my expectations for Mr O are not at all high; that he sought and accepted the office of US president makes two strikes against him in my book. But the fact that he isn’t Geo. W. Bush- I’m elated about that, almost ecstatic. If we can survive eight years under the sway of that fool, we can survive anything.

    You might take a grim satisfaction from watching Warren’s inaugural performance, the smarminess of it will confirm every negative conception you may have about evangelical Christians.

  17. cymast

     /  January 23, 2009

    Yes, things can only get better IMO.

    Every negative conception I have about evangelical Christians has already been repeatedly confirmed some time ago, so I think I’ll spare myself a salmonella relapse.

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