The Poem: The Colored Soldier

My brother died in France —but I came back.
We were just two colored boys, brown and black,
Who joined up to fight for the U.S.A.
When the Nation called us that mighty day.
We were sent to training camp, then overseas —
And me and my brother were happy as you please
Thinking we were fighting for Democracy’s true reign
And that our dark blood would wipe away the stain
Of prejudice, and hate, and the false color line —
And give us the rights that are yours and mine.
They told us America would know no black or white:
So we marched to the front, happy to fight.

Last night in a dream my brother came to me
Out of his grave from over the sea,
Back from the acres of crosses in France,
And said to me, “Brother, you’ve got your chance,
And I hope you’re making good, and doing fine—
‘Cause when I was living, I didn’t have mine.
Black boys couldn’t work then anywhere like they can today,
Could hardly find a job that offered decent pay.
The unions barred us; the factories, too,
But now I know we’ve got plenty to do.
We couldn’t eat in restaurants; had Jim Crow cars;
Didn’t have any schools; and there were all sorts ofbars
To a colored boy’s rising in wealth or station—
But now I know well that’s not our situation:
The world’s been made safe for Democracy
And no longer do we know the dark misery
Of being held back, of having no chance—
Since the colored soldiers came home from France.
Didn’t our government tell us things would be fine
When we got through fighting, Over There, and dying?
So now I know we blacks are just like any other—
‘Cause that’s what I died for—isn’t it, Brother?
“And I saw him standing there, straight and tall,
In his soldier’s uniform, and all.
Then his dark face smiled at me in the night—

But the dream was cruel —and bitter—and somehownot right.
It was awful —facing that boy who went out to die,
For what could I answer him, except, “It’s a lie

“It’s a lie It’s a lie Every word they said.
And it’s better a thousand times you’re in France dead.
For here in the South there’s no votes and no right.
And I’m still just a “nigger” in America tonight.

Then I woke up, and the dream was ended—
But broken was the soldier’s dream, too bad to be mended.
And it’s a good thing all the black boys lying dead
Over There
Can’t seeAnd don’t know And won’t ever care!

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