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My brother died in France—but I came back.
We were just two colored boys, brown and black,
Who joined up to fight for the U.S.A.
When the Nation called us that mighty day.
We were sent to training camp, then overseas—
And me and my brother were happy as you please
Thinking we were fighting for Democracy’s true reign
And that our dark blood would wipe away the stain
Of prejudice, and hate, and the false color line—
And give us the rights that are yours and mine.
They told us America would know no black or white:
So we marched to the front, happy to fight.
–Langston Hughes, The Colored Soldier (1919) in: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes pp. 147-48 (A. Rampersad ed. 1995).
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Notes on South Africa’s failed revolution
“I will never know what goes on in your mind, or what that shield of a smile behind which we try to advance should tell us.”