This star spangled banner country,
Is styled as the “Land of Free;”
And yet our race here suffers wrong,
Mixed with great humility.
We try to live by both the laws,
Of righteous God and man;
And on all public questions,
For right we try to stand.
And yet to suit the appetites,
Of other wicked men;
Our race is lynched, our race is mobbed,
O! what a wretched sin.
Can men of church and men of state,
Who detest human strife,
Carry a Christian conscience clear,
And still take human life?
That awful day is sure to come,
“The appointed hour make haste,”
When they must stand before their God,
And pass that solemn test.
We know not if the dark or bright,
Is going to be our lot;
If that wherein our hopes delight,
Be best, indeed, or not.
It may be ours in future years,
To live with all in peace;
If those who now despise our race,
Let hostile outrage cease.
What an hour it must have been
For a woman’s tender heart,
When the pityless, rough lynchers,
Tore she’nd her husband apart.
And while the mother clasped her hands
And the children wept and prayed;
The whole family made struggles,
And shrieked to heaven for aid.
The atrocities of Russia
Against the thriving Jew,
And the horrors of Liberia,
Would disappear from view.
Mob violence against China,
And all the heathen lands;
Is far surpassed by lynch law,
In this, our Southern land.
If we ask ourselves the question
“Why do they lynch the Negro?”
Our hearts respond full sadly,
“They, nor we, do not know.”
We’ve asked the wise in every age,
And searched the universe around;
But neither scientist nor sage,
An answer to the quest has found.
Is it God’s will, what seer can tell?
(Thus do our anxious thoughts revolve)
Or is there not some oracle,
That can or will the problem solve?
Are we but phantoms, with no cause,
But chance from cradle to the grave;
Or those inexorable laws
Of which agnostics boast and rave?
Or are we orphans with no home,
With none whom we can father call;
As outcasts here a while to roam,
And then pass off with “death ends all?”
No! let us not discouraged be
But hope and every pray
That wrong and inhumanity,
May cease to be some day.
While the storms of life are raging
Lynching wild in our land,
Can we find a better refuge
Than the shadow of God’s hand?
But what shall cleanse our country
From all this painful guilt,
The blood of freemen shed by freemen,
Upon her bosom spilt?
When the pilgrim fathers came
From far across the sea;
Their purposes were nobler than
The lynching of the free.
When Washington at Valley Forge
Endured the winter’s pain,
And when he crossed the Deleware
‘Twas all for freedom’s name.
He knew not that a cent’ry hence,
The flag for which he fought;
Would be disgraced by lynching men,
By taking life for naught.
When Lincoln gave that mighty stroke,
When Sherman reached the sea,
When Grant took Appomatax,
Their cry was liberty.
When John Brown laid his body down
And his soul went marching on,
He knew not that his cause would be
Disgraced by this great wrong.
Could these great men speak back today
From their resting domain;
They’d whisper all in one accord,
“Our blood was spilt in vain.”
Dear native land, a newer page
Must turn as time moves by;
Shall that page be brighter,
Or shall thy greatness die?
Thou hast a noble government,
And ’tis with trembling heart,
That we see what thou appearest
And look on what thou art.
We’ve wept till we could not weep,
And the pain of our burning eyes
Has gone into our aching hearts,
And now the nation cries.
Earth uplifts a general cry,
For all this guilt and wrong;
And heaven’s ears are listening
To the suff’rers’ wailing song.
Who’ll interpret this mystery?
Even the common dust
Under the feet of the guilty
Cries out “this crime’s unjust.”
But we shall see the day,
When right shall surely reign;
When at the bar of conscience,
The guilty shall be slain.
It may be when Ida Wells’ lessons have been learned
The lynchers sun forever more has set,
The things which our weak judgment here have spurned,
The things o’er which we’ve grieved with lashes wet,
Will flash before them out of life’s dark night
As stars shine most in deeper tints of blue.
And they shall see how all her plans were right
And how what seemed reproof was love most true;
And when those nations far across the sea
Begin to point o’er here the finger of shame,
And show our state the depth of all these crimes,
I think she will take steps to stop the same.
You know that prudent parents disallow
Too much of sweet to craving babyhood;
So God, perhaps, is holding from us now
Life’s sweetest things because it seemeth good,
And they shall shortly know that lengthened breath
Is not the sweetest gift God sends His friends,
And that sometimes the sable pall of death
Conceals the fairest boon His love can send.
And if through all this strife we live to stand
Where our minds from lynching news may rest,
Then we shall clearly know and understand;
I think that all will say “God knew the best.”
(Frank Barbour Coffin)
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