The Poetry of Melvin B. Tolson

This poem is hard to find but too long to type! So, glad I found it here. Another of Ma Coley’s favorites. You probably know of Melvin Tolson through the Denzel Washington film, The Great Debaters. Tolson was the teacher and debate coach. One heck of a poet, he was not really appreciated in his time. Anyway, we read this in Ms. Coley’s class and I am mighty happy to rediscover it here.


Here are three poems from Tolson’s collection that I enjoyed.

Page 22 – The Town Fathers

At the courthouse square

On the Fourth of July,

Beneath Old Glory’s

Pyrotechnic sky,

The town fathers met,

Minus Bible and rye.


Against the statute

Of Confederate dead

The Mayor spat

His snuff and said,

“We need a slogan!”

And he palmed his head.


The Sheriff’s idioms

Dynamited assent.

The Judge croaked a phrase

Latinistically bent.

And the Mayor pondered

With official intent.


On a neon billboard,

As high as a steeple,

The travelers puzzle

The amazing sequel:

The Blackest Land

And The Whitest People.

Page 33 – The Unknown Solider

I was a minuteman at Concord Bridge,

I was a frigate-gunner on Lake Erie,

I was a mortarman at Stony Ridge,

I fought at San Juan Hill and Château Thierry,

I braved Corregidor and the Arctic Sea:

The index finger…

View original post 1,069 more words


Author: Raymond Maxwell Librarian, archivist-in-training, retired foreign service officer and Navy veteran.

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