AMERICA

- By Claude McKay
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Festus Claudius McKay (September 15, 1890[1] – May 22, 1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet, and a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Jamaica, McKay first traveled to the United States to attend college, and encountered W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk which stimulated McKay’s interest in political involvement. He moved to New York City in 1914 and in 1919 wrote "If We Must Die", one of his best known works, a widely reprinted sonnet responding to the wave of white-on-black race riots and lynchings following the conclusion of the First World War.

AMERICA

"Empire" by Rodrigo Paredes is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

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