Ghana Calls

By W. E. B. Du Bois 1868–1963 W. E. B. Du Bois

Dedicated to Kwame Nkrumah

I was a little boy, at home with strangers.   
I liked my playmates, and knew well,   
Whence all their parents came;
From England, Scotland, royal France   
From Germany and oft by chance
The humble Emerald Isle.

But my brown skin and close-curled hair
Was alien, and how it grew, none knew;
Few tried to say, some dropped a wonderful word or stray;
Some laughed and stared.

And then it came: I dreamed.   
I placed together all I knew
All hints and slurs together drew.   
I dreamed.

I made one picture of what nothing seemed   
I shuddered in dumb terror
In silence screamed,
For now it seemed this I had dreamed;

How up from Hell, a land had leaped
A wretched land, all scorched and seamed   
Covered with ashes, chained with pain   
Streaming with blood, in horror lain   
Its very air a shriek of death
And agony of hurt.

Anon I woke, but in one corner of my soul   
I stayed asleep.
Forget I could not,
But never would I remember   
That hell-hoist ghost   
Of slavery and woe.

I lived and grew, I worked and hoped
I planned and wandered, gripped and coped   
With every doubt but one that slept   
Yet clamoured to awaken.
I became old; old, worn and gray;   
Along my hard and weary way
Rolled war and pestilence, war again;   
I looked on Poverty and foul Disease   
I walked with Death and yet I knew
There stirred a doubt: Were all dreams true?   
And what in truth was Africa?

One cloud-swept day a Seer appeared,   
All closed and veiled as me he hailed
And bid me make three journeys to the world   
Seeking all through their lengthened links   
The endless Riddle of the Sphinx.

I went to Moscow; Ignorance grown wise taught me Wisdom;
I went to Peking: Poverty grown rich
Showed me the wealth of Work
I came to Accra.

Here at last, I looked back on my Dream;   
I heard the Voice that loosed
The Long-looked dungeons of my soul
I sensed that Africa had come
Not up from Hell, but from the sum of Heaven’s glory.

I lifted up mine eyes to Ghana
And swept the hills with high Hosanna;
Above the sun my sight took flight   
Till from that pinnacle of light
I saw dropped down this earth of crimson, green and gold
Roaring with color, drums and song.

Happy with dreams and deeds worth more than doing   
Around me velvet faces loomed   
Burnt by the kiss of everlasting suns
Under great stars of midnight glory   
Trees danced, and foliage sang;

The lilies hallelujah rang
Where robed with rule on Golden Stool   
The gold-crowned Priests with duty done   
Pour high libations to the sun
And danced to gods.

Red blood flowed rare ’neath close-clung hair   
While subtle perfume filled the air   
And whirls and whirls of tiny curls   
Crowned heads.

Yet Ghana shows its might and power   
Not in its color nor its flower   
But in its wondrous breadth of soul   
Its Joy of Life
Its selfless role
Of giving.
School and clinic, home and hall   
Road and garden bloom and call   
Socialism blossoms bold
On Communism centuries old.

I lifted my last voice and cried   
I cried to heaven as I died:
O turn me to the Golden Horde   
Summon all western nations   
Toward the Rising Sun.

From reeking West whose day is done,   
Who stink and stagger in their dung   
Toward Africa, China, India’s strand   
Where Kenya and Himalaya stand   
And Nile and Yang-tze roll:
Turn every yearning face of man.

Come with us, dark America:
The scum of Europe battened here   
And drowned a dream
Made fetid swamp a refuge seem:

Enslaved the Black and killed the Red   
And armed the Rich to loot the Dead;   
Worshipped the whores of Hollywood   
Where once the Virgin Mary stood
And lynched the Christ.

Awake, awake, O sleeping world   
Honor the sun;

Worship the stars, those vaster suns   
Who rule the night
Where black is bright
And all unselfish work is right   
And Greed is Sin.

And Africa leads on:   
Pan Africa!

W. E. B. Du Bois, “Ghana Calls” 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 History & Politics, Travels & Journeys, Activities, Social Commentaries

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Travels & Journeys, Activities, Social Commentaries

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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