Work and labor.
The sound of a hard worker huffing and puffing to swing his hammer
Slave owner yelling at him to keep working.
“Using the worksong, a form traditionally intended to convey the communalism of hard work, the poet particularized the experience of his personal tragedy.”
Written by Joanna V. Gabbin
Chain gang nevah—hunh--/Let me go;/ Chain gang nevah—hunh--/Let me go;
Being confined and chained up.
Slave fighting back and wanting to be released
“He uses authentic black country dialect and structures from rural oral traditions to address what he perceives to be a profound cultural crisis facing American
Written by Hao Huang
My ole man died—hunh--/Cussin’ me
White man tells me—hunh—/Damn yo’ soul
This could be the same person or the old man is his father and the white man is his slave owner.
“As commentator Joanne Gabbin puts it,’For Brown, folk expression constitutes a very adept self-portraiture of a people and serves as an important source, models and measure for literary interpretation.’”
Written by R.V. Burnette
They come by tens.
A group of people coming after one slave for what he has done wrong.
Idea of confinement and oppression
They weigh the cotton/ They store the corn/ We only good enough/ To work the rows
They are describing the owners and we are describing the slaves.
Slaves are only good enough to do hard labor in the fields.
“Sterling brown has never written for any special group, black or white. He has no pandering, truculent desire to appeal to the genteel diversion and tradition.”
Written by Timothy J. Sisler
They got the judges/They go the lawyers/ […]/They got the sheriffs
The white men seem to be referred to as they in this poem. Here they are described as having knowledgeable jobs, whereas the slaves are in the fields doing skillful jobs such as cotton picking.
An’ some folks sits dere waitin’ wid deir aches an’ miseries
They are working hard every day