To Be A Free Man. – Inspired by Booker T. Washington.

Okay, so this was an assignment in my Poetry class yesterday. The directions were to find a book from somewhere in the classroom that contains prose. Then find a piece from within that book that contains “poetic” writing. Then take an excerpt from that pice and reconstruct it as a poem of 20-30 lines. It’s called “Found” Poetry.

My book was called Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, published in 1901. Wow, it was old and the binding was still magically together, but the pages were practically yellow at the edges. And that’s why I picked it out, not from the title or the author, but from the ancient nostaligic feeling I got when I picked it up. Anyway, my in-decisiveness  was driving me crazy and I couldn’t just turn to a random page, because then I wouldn’t know what he was talking about and it’d be more difficult to construct a poem about something you didn’t know. So, I did the most logical thing and picked my excerpt from the summary of the biography.

Up From Slavery is the autobiography of one of the most remarkable men America has every produced, a man born in slavery but lifted by his own vision and perseverance to a position of leadership and power. The son of a slave woman, Booker T. Washington struggled to acquire an education for himself, then dedicated his life to educating others. His is a story of almost unbelievable devotion and selflessness, an inspiration to people all over the world as long as men recognize the value of courage and human dignity.”

Here’s the poem I reconstructed from the excerpt:

To Be A Free Man

The sun started to finally rise,

Even though I already started my day’s work.

Picking corn and cotton all day long

In the scorching sun can really burn your soul black.

Black is the hatred my Mother’s Master holds against us.

But there is a thing called hope.

My Mother doesn’t believe we will one day be free,

But I do.

I tell the other slaves

Of my dreams of freedom.

Where we can vote and own our own land.

Be a free man.

They all tell me I need an education first.

But the son of a slave woman is a hard enough life

Without the fighting for a fair education.

It doesn’t bring me down though,

I will get an education.

Become my own man,

Live my life the way I want.

My Mother says to stop talking non-sense,

If the Master heard,

I’d surely be whipped.

But I’m not afraid.

I will be a free man one day.

Just you wait.

2011 (C) JG


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