Poem: Claude McKay “If We Must Die” (1919)

Claude McKay (1889-1948)


If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

This poem was written in the context of post-World War 1 riots, which were primarily white assaults on Black neighborhoods and towns all of the US.

1 Comment

  1. This poem is so wonderful to me. Used it in a speech class over 30 years ago, and it still has such resononance and strength. Thank you for posting it. It is important to continue Mr. McKays legacy.

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