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Poem by James Weldon Johnson


(A Lecture on Modern Education)

Look heah, Tunk!--Now, ain't dis awful! T'ought I sont you off to school.
Don't you know dat you is growin' up to be a reg'lah fool?

Whah's dem books dat I's done bought you? Look heah, boy, you tell me quick,
Whah's dat Webster blue-back spellah an' dat bran' new 'rifmatic?

W'ile I'm t'inkin' you is lahnin' in de school, why bless ma soul!
You off in de woods a-playin'. Can't you do like you is tole?

Boy, I tell you, it's jes scan'lous d'way dat you is goin' on.
An' you sholy go'n be sorry, jes as true as you is bo'n.

Heah I'm tryin' hard to raise you as a credit to dis race,
An' you tryin' heap much harder fu' to come up in disgrace.

Dese de days w'en men don't git up to de top by hooks an' crooks;
Tell you now, dey's got to git der standin' on a pile o' books.

W'en you sees a darkey goin' to de fiel' as soon as light,
Followin' a mule across it f'om de mawnin' tel de night,

Wukin' all his life fu' vittles, hoein' 'tween de cott'n rows,
W'en he knocks off ole an' tiah'd, ownin' nut'n but his clo'es,

You kin put it down to ignunce, aftah all what's done an' said,
You kin bet dat dat same darkey ain't got nut'n in his head.

Ain't you seed dem w'ite men set'n in der awfice? Don't you know
Dey goes der 'bout nine each mawnin? Bless yo' soul, dey's out by fo'.

Dey jes does a little writin'; does dat by some easy means;
Gals jes set an' play piannah on dem printin' press muchines.

Chile, dem men knows how to figgah, how to use dat little pen,
An' dey knows dat blue-back spellah f'om beginnin' to de en'.

Dat's de 'fect of education; dat's de t'ing what's gwine to rule;
Git dem books, you lazy rascal! Git back to yo' place in school!

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson's other poems:
  1. An Explanation
  2. Brer Rabbit, You's de Cutes' of 'Em All
  3. De Little Pickaninny's Gone to Sleep
  4. And the Greatest of These Is War
  5. Sence You Went Away

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