Archive for June 14th, 2020

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Booker T. and W.E.B. by Dudley Randall

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“It shows a mighty lot of cheek
To study chemistry and Greek
When Mister Charlie needs a hand
To hoe the cotton on his land,
And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,
Why stick your nose inside a book?”

“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“If I should have the drive to seek
Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,
I’ll do it. Charles and Miss can look
Another place for hand or cook.
Some men rejoice in skill of hand,
And some in cultivating land,
But there are others who maintain
The right to cultivate the brain.”

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“That all you folks have missed the boat
Who shout about the right to vote,
And spend vain days and sleepless nights
In uproar over civil rights.
Just keep your mouths shut, do not grouse,
But work, and save, and buy a house.”

“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“For what can property avail
If dignity and justice fail.
Unless you help to make the laws,
They’ll steal your house with trumped-up clause.
A rope’s as tight, a fire as hot,
No matter how much cash you’ve got.
Speak soft, and try your little plan,
But as for me, I’ll be a man.”

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.—
“I don’t agree,”
Said W.E.B.

*“Booker T.” – Booker Taliaferro Washington (1856-1915) was a key proponent of the Atlanta compromise which was an agreement that Southern Blacks would submit to white political rule (in return for Southern whites supplying basic education and due process in law).
“W.E.B.” – William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) opposed the Atlanta compromise and insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation for all African-Americans.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47690/booker-t-and-web

Date: 1969

By: Dudley Randall (1914-2000)