"Flag Salute" is a poem written by Esther Popel about the lynching of George Armwood on October 18, 1933 in Princess Anne, Maryland.[1][2] It was first published in August 1934 in The Crisis[3] and later republished in its entirety on the cover of The Crisis in 1940.[1]

It juxtaposes the murder of Armwood with quotations from the Pledge of Allegiance.[4] The poem reflects that lynching in the United States had become a "ritual of interracial social control."[5]

Text edit

“I pledge allegiance to the flag”—

They dragged him naked
Through the muddy streets,
A feeble-minded black boy!
And the charge? Supposed assault
Upon an aged woman!

“Of the United States of America”—

One mile they dragged him
Like a sack of meal,
A rope around his neck,
A bloody ear
Left dangling by the patriotic hand
Of Nordic youth! (A boy of seventeen!)

“And to the Republic for which it stands”—

And then they hanged his body to a tree,
Below the window of the county judge
Whose pleadings for that battered human flesh
Were stifled by the brutish, raucous howls
Of men, and boys, and women with their babes,
Brought out to see the bloody spectacle
Of murder in the style of ‘33!
(Three thousand strong, they were!)

“One Nation, Indivisible”—

To make the tale complete
They built a fire—
What matters that the stuff they burned
Was flesh—and bone—and hair—
And reeking gasoline!

“With Liberty—and Justice”—

They cut the rope in bits
And passed them out,
For souvenirs, among the men and boys!
The teeth no doubt, on golden chains
Will hang
About the favored necks of sweethearts, wives,
And daughters, mothers, sisters, babies, too!

“For ALL!”

— Esther Popel

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Flag Salute". The Crisis. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Cover. November 1940. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  2. ^ Rice, Anne P. (October 9, 2008). Witnessing Lynching: American Writers Respond. Rutgers University Press. p. 282. ISBN 978-0813533308. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  3. ^ West, Sandra L. (September 1, 2003). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. p. 266. ISBN 9781438130170. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  4. ^ Bracks, Lean'tin L; Smith, Jessie Carney (16 October 2014). Black Women of the Harlem Renaissance Era. Bowman and Little Field. p. 173. ISBN 9780810885431. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  5. ^ Selim, Yasser Fouad (2014). Who Defines Me: Negotiating Identity in Language and Literature. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 978-1443859684. Retrieved 27 April 2015.