To America

A poem by James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938), American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, and civil rights activist.

Nine people were shot in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, this week, and the evidence points to it being a racist hate-crime. So, 144 years and 1 day after his birth, we are reminded that some things, unfortunately have not changed.

To America

How would you have us, as we are?
Or sinking ‘neath the load we bear?
Our eyes fixed forward on a star?
Or gazing empty at despair?

Rising or falling? Men or things?
With dragging pace or footsteps fleet?
Strong, willing sinews in your wings?
Or tightening chains about your feet?

— From Fifty Years & Other Poems (1917)