Viewing page 14 of 28

234      THE CRISIS

Yet what American magazine dares paint a Negro as aught but a beast, a clown, or a silly old servant?


ONCE upon a time there lay a land in the southern sea; a dark, grim land, walled well against the world. And in that land rose three rivers and a fourth, all flowing out to seek the sea. One river was born amid the Lakes and Mountains of the Moon, sun-kissed, snow-capped, and fled to the northward silent, swiftly; it clambered over the hills and swam the marshes. It threaded the sands—the narrow, choking sands that grew hotter and narrower as it went; yet the river swept on to wider, greener fields, to a laughing plain until through many mouths it burst like a rocket to the Middle Sea with all its myriads of men.

In the wake of the river came dark men creeping, dancing, marching, building, until their pyramids and temples dotted the land and dared the Heavens, and the Thought of their souls and cities was the Beginning of the World.

Far, far away to westward another river leapt and sang and lightly turned its back upon the Sea, rushing to northward. But the grim desert shrieked in its fastnesses crying "Not here!" So the river whirled southward till the black forests cried in their gloom, "Not here!" The river bowed and circled westwar. Sullenly, silently, yet proudly, she swept into the western sea. As she swept she sang low minor melody; as she sang she scattered gold carelessly to the black children. But ere she died in the depth of the sea she gave to her strongest and blackest sons, Iron—the precious gift of Iron. They fashioned it cunningly and welded it in faery forms and sent it to the ends of earth to make all me awake. And men awoke. They awoke on the cunning breast of the river's self and kingdom on kingdom arose until the empire of the Songhay rivaled the empires of the world. The sound of the might of Negro land echoed in Carthage and grew in Numidia and gave fairy tales to the Middle Sea.

Away to the South and eastward and below the Mountains of the Moon the third broad river heard her sisters hurrying seawardd. North and westward they had gone but she turned to the eternal east. Golden she lifted up her golden hands and stretched to Ophir, Punt and Tarshish her long, lithe finger. Her voice rose mighty in song until with a million stars in her throat she dropped wild singing in the southern sea and shuddered to the vastness of its silence.

Her black children sat in mine, fortress, temple and flowering field and traded with dark traders beyond the Indian Sea, till lo: out of the north came a cry like the anguish of a soul. For back in the bowels of the land men heard the running of three rivers and rushed away madly; for they were those that would not hear and could not see. On they ran, on, on and eastward ringing their spears and crying their great, awful cry of war. As locusts swarming they passed the north of the glooming forest with its dim red faerie; eastward they looked upon the inland oceans and southward they sent their war cry reeling to the Mountains of the Moon.

There came a shouting in the wilderness and again as swarming bees onward they came, and again the war cry echoed to the stars. Over the ruin of things that were passed that black and human flood until its angry surf dashed into the vast, red Heart of the Land, and knew the haunted spell-cursed realm of the Last River. Mighty was this last of rivers-a river of rivers, an endless lacing and swirling and curling and swelling and streaming of wild, weird waters beneath the giant jungle, where the lion, the leopard and the elephant slept with the long, slim snake. 

Hand in hand and voice to voice these waters whirled in one vast circle within the bosom of the land saying their incantations. 


They shouldered past the mountains and sang past all the seas, then shunning the glaring desert and ingathering themselves to one swarming flood they thrilled and thundered on the sea. Snake-like and lion strong they gathered the children, the little dark and weeping children, and lo, beyond on swelling waters rose a hoarse, harsh cry and slim and sail-like fingers beckoned to the westward deeps. The river paused and rose red and reeking in the sunlight-thundered to the sea-thundered through the sea in one long line of blood, with tossing limbs and the echoing cries of death and pain. 

On, on! the bloody waters, with those pale ghost fingers of ship and sail, with gold and iron, hurting and hell, rolled, swelled and tumbled, until the laughing islands of the western sea grew dark and dumb with pain and in the world, the great new world a Sorrow was planted and the Sorrow grew.


NOW the age in which we live is a positive, dynamic age. There are conflicts going on all about us against greed and selfishness, for the benefit (on a national scale, mind you) of ignorant and suffering humanity. 

"There are some good people who decry this struggle. An eminent minister of the gospel is quoted recently as saying that fighting is the wrong way to go about the bettering of conditions. Let our reformers, he said in effect, like precious lumps of radium, sit still and emanate virtue-particles. Now I am very far from denying that the very essence of righteousness is that it can be radiated is radiated: but how, it may be asked, is righteousness acquired. Is it acquired by one's sitting still and absorbing it? Is it to be achieved by practising a long list of 'thou shalt nots?'

"Righteousness, I believe we must all agree, is potential energy, to be won, and to be won only by buffeting one's way up a toilsome slope against enemies, against that terrible power, incarnate in mankind, which is called, for lack of a better name, evil. Righteousness is growth. The moment fighting stops, growth stops, and righteousness has ceased to radiate because it is dead. 

"Which are the men who, like powerful electric generators, have radiated it so that all mankind is stirred and energized? Are they not those who were most hated and vilified in their day by the evil-minded and the close-minded, against complacent customs which wronged humanity and against complacent selfishness which sought to destroy it? We need go no farther for an example of this than Jesus Christ."

WINSTON CHURCHILL in the Christmas 


WITH brawny arms the Negro stands,
Uplifting in his sable hands
King Cotton; while about him grow
The pretty buds as white as snow.
His arms alone support, sustain,
His royal person while he reigns.
Exalt, ye nations that be prone,
Him who thus stands beneath the throne
For lo, what danger! what alarm!
Should he withdraw his mighty arm.
Pray, what if he should take away
That pow'r which give King Cotton sway
O'er all the world; for by his right
He can withhold that which would blight
The nations all upon the globe.
For though he may not wear the robe,
Nor on the regal throne may sit, 
He is the king; though black quite fit;
Despite illit'racy and birth
To wield the scepter o'er the earth.
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact