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Historical Poem: “A Man's Years of Hardship”



The proclamation arrived
They were Southern sons
And masked was every face;
And Winfield rifles were they guns
That could not be traced.

Many Southern sons of Africa
Did have a key
And their entrance was quick.
I saw the victims not the talkers.

They reached in my room! My wife and I were in bed
They beat so bad
I felt they had stricken with a match above my head
As my eyes opened.

My bloody hope did not meet
My wife had gone away;
The Southern braves did not retreat
There was no need for me to stay.

I must remain
Worse than alien in my native land
For long year past, I fought others gain
Beneath the Cain’s who continued to have one iron hand.

They wore the mask that grinned with lies
They hid my people cheeks and the shape of their eyes
From the Citizens of the United States
They toned and broke the hearts of the good persons
By separating the blacks & the whites with unequal access.

Why should the world-be-over-wise
In counting all the tears and sights?
Nay, let them only see them, while
They continue to wear the mask.  

Far in the ninety years
After the Yankees were freed from the British.
I, James Morrow, thirty-nine years old
A Negro cotton farmer in North Carolina
Learned to think like a man
And had the privilege to adopt to a new plan.

The Cain of 1865 tried to give my land away*
The Cain of 1865 gave my enemies freedom
The Cain of 1865 gave me hell during reconstruction.

I took the lead in politics
And handled the crops like the notes of Cain of 1865.
I was up to all tricks.
I gathered all my cottons
But I could not gather the vote.

When harvest came
All the negroes took a stand in the field
With roses of pain.

I was now greater than the lord
Who used to be called a slave
For now, I was a country boy
With every right to hail ALAS!

Then I got a little sign from the clones of Cain of 1865
‘Twas very discreetly signed’
It simply closed my rights to vote
Or death be do me a part.

Though, I thought this restriction
Was very fine and nice
Because their Freedmen's Bureau
Gave me my land
Gave my wife the ability to buy food
Gave my children the ABC's of life.
But was worth it to have economic freedom without civil rights?

I began to bring my courage to shame
And questioned my knowledge.

“What right they me to have?
I to myself did say
Dare they pressure me.
I don't care how loudly they are.”

I proudly continued my thought
This cotton field is mine and here I die,
Searching for my human rights.
Let them come! Let them see my colors
I am ready now to fight!

Those who mused me as an idiot
Came like cowards
With their vain presumptions.

I pursued my farming
And made the money too,
But during home nights I wisely came
And played the husband and the father game.
When they need a subject to be tamed
They had a weekly-matured plan came
At the hours of midnight,
And armed was ever man.

©1996, 2012/WaliWORLD

*Cain was the first Biblical person who committed murder. Even though he killed his brother he denied his responsibility of the murder. In the same way Pres. Johnson broke his pledges like his vetoes of Freedmen's Bureau. This comparison is to vilify Johnson for granting pardon to southern rebels and restoring their civil rights and confiscated land promised to free slaves. Pres. Johnson stabbed free blacks in the back just as Cain stabbed his brother in the back.

This poem Highlights:

  • What Blacks went through after the Civil War.
  • The stories behind the Emancipation Proclamation .
  • The beginnings of segregation between blacks and whites.
  • Dangers that black men had to face in 1860s.

Reasons for this poem are to:

  • Highlight the failures of Freedmen's Bureau.
  • Vilify President Johnson for granting pardon to southern rebels and restoring their civil rights and confiscated land promised to free slaves.
  • Show how men cannot be trusted.

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