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Inspiration

If We Must Die by Claude McKay Wonderful Words from Others

It is wonderful to stand tall and proud in the face of unfair opposition, even if that means you have to wear a mask.

This article is the third in a five-part series of articles highlighting wise words from others. Each article will have another set of wise words from someone and some of the lessons those words teach us. Other articles in the series include the following:

Proverbs 31 (Click here to read the article.)

Langston Hughes “Mother to Son”

Paul Lawrence Dunbar “We Wear the Mask”

Maya Angelou “Phenomenal Woman”

Today I am going to share Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die.” As a young child, I remember wanting to be a black panther. I liked the idea of fighting against oppression and making the world a better place for my people. My career as a Panther was cut short before it even began. I was not allowed off the front steps, I was not allowed to use the telephone and I was denied access to the postal service.

While I could not be a panther. I did enjoy reading the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and through the 1960’s. One poem I read as a child that helped instill a sense of pride and admiration for the fight was Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die.”

If We Must Die
By Claude McKay
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If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
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