Sojourner Kincaid Rolle
Free At Last - Juneteenth Poem. (Revised) - Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle
General Granger brought the news to
Galveston: "The war is over! "
President Lincoln signed a decree;
The Emancipation Proclamation
declares, "All who live in bondage here
shall from now until be free."
After 300 years of forced labor;
hands bound, descendants of Africa
picked up their souls - all that they
owned - leaving shackles where they fell
on the ground, headed for the nearest
resting place to be found.
Some went no further than the shack
out back; oft only a lean-to shed -
hard ground for a bed; hard labor, no
pay, but the will to survive.
‘though they couldn't call it their own,
They still declared, "this is my home."
Some went to the nearest place of the
Lord; to some hollow place in the
brush or to a clearing in a grove
where folk gathered ‘neath a still standing
tree and sang, "Thank you
Jesus, for delivering me."
Some ran as far as they could go
into the service of the man
on the neighboring land
Working for a pittance
and a little plot of space
much like they did as a slave.
Some made a beeline for nearest saloon
singing a song, picking a tune;
toasting the Union and Lady Luck,
settin' da flo, dancing the jig and the buck;
patting themselves on their whip-scarred backs;
carousing from night into day.
Some went the way of the river,
following the Rio Grande
or swimming the up-flowing Mississip.
Hastening to get as far as they could -
thrusting their futures into sanctuary and
friendless unknown territory.
Some kept running like a stone on a
hill - never to grasp a firm place to rest.
Some even went to the promised land;
Wherever they went alone or abreast
At the end of their journey, they cried,
"I've done my best."
Every year in the Lone Star State, and
in towns from sea to sea,
sons and daughters of the ones who
were held celebrate the time when
their forebears got the news -
"the war was over; all men were free."
They will always remember;
they will never forget Juneteenth
When their forebears could shout,
"Free at Last! Hallelujah, I'm free."
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