My Country ’Tis of Thee

By W. E. B. Du Bois 1868–1963 W. E. B. Du Bois
Of course you have faced the dilemma: it is announced, they all smirk and rise. If they are ultra, they remove their hats and look ecstatic; then they look at you. What shall you do? Noblesse oblige; you cannot be boorish, or ungracious; and too, after all it is your country and you do love its ideals if not all of its realities. Now, then, I have thought of a way out: Arise, gracefully remove your hat, and tilt your head. Then sing as follows, powerfully and with deep unction. They’ll hardly note the little changes and their feelings and your conscience will thus be saved:

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
         Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride   
Slept where my mother died,   
From every mountain side
         Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
         Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,   
My heart with purpose thrills,   
         To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze   
And wring from all the trees
          Sweet freedom’s song.   
Let laggard tongues awake,   
Let all who hear partake,   
Let Southern silence quake,
         The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee   
Author of Liberty,
         To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,   
With Freedom’s happy light   
Protect us by Thy might,
         Great God our King.

W. E. B. Du Bois, “My Country ’Tis of Thee” from Creative Writings by W. E. B Du Bois (KrausThomson Organization Limited, 1985). Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of W. E. B. Du Bois.

Source: Creative Writings by W. E. B. Du Bois (KrausThomson Organization Limited, 1985)

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Poet W. E. B. Du Bois 1868–1963

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Heroes & Patriotism, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Prose Poem, Mixed, Rhymed Stanza

 W.  E. B. Du Bois

Biography

W. E. B. Du Bois was at the vanguard of the civil rights movement in America. Of French and African descent, Du Bois grew up in Massachusetts and did not begin to comprehend the problems of racial prejudice until he attended Fisk University in Tennessee. Later he was accepted at Harvard University, but while he was at that institution, he voluntarily segregated himself from white students. Trained as a sociologist, Du Bois began . . .

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Poems by W. E. B. Du Bois

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Heroes & Patriotism, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Prose Poem, Mixed, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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