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By Margaret Walker Mike Coggins.  Born on July 7, 1915 in Birmingham, Alabama  Received her Bachelor’s from Northwestern in 1935  Received her Master’s.

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Presentation on theme: "By Margaret Walker Mike Coggins.  Born on July 7, 1915 in Birmingham, Alabama  Received her Bachelor’s from Northwestern in 1935  Received her Master’s."— Presentation transcript:

1 By Margaret Walker Mike Coggins

2  Born on July 7, 1915 in Birmingham, Alabama  Received her Bachelor’s from Northwestern in 1935  Received her Master’s in creative writing from University of Iowa in 1942  Founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life and Culture of Black People in 1968  Won the National Endowment Award for the Humanities in 1972  Won the White House Award for Distinguished Senior Citizen  Died of cancer on November 30, 1998 in Chicago  Famous for her literature concerning black culture

3 We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil ones. And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers believing in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble and the faithful and the pure.

4 Neither the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in the new Jerusalem. We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and strong.

5 We have been believers yielding substance for the world. With our hands have we fed a people and out of our strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation. Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has heralded the dawn. Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire.

6 Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the priests and the preachers and the powers will hear. Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of the people will send us a sign. We have been believers believing in our burdens and our demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and pray; the long-suffering arise, and our fists bleed against the bars with a strange insistency.

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8 We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil ones. And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers believing in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble and the faithful and the pure.

9 Neither the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in the new Jerusalem. We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and strong.

10 We have been believers yielding substance for the world. With our hands have we fed a people and out of our strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation. Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has heralded the dawn. Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire.

11 Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the priests and the preachers and the powers will hear. Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of the people will send us a sign. We have been believers believing in our burdens and our demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and pray; the long-suffering arise, and our fists bleed against the bars with a strange insistency.

12  A black person, man or woman, speaking on behalf of the black community as a whole  Speaks both of black culture and experience  Puts emphasis on black religious beliefs and practices

13  Belief in black culture  Proud of their traditions- Nothing could “kill our black belief.”  Later feels a sense of abandonment- “Where are our gods?”  Black struggle in America  Never has a positive view of white oppression  Initially- “believing in the mercy of our masters”  By the end, there is a call for action  “believing in our burdens and our demigods too long.”

14  8 stanzas  Free verse  Repetition of “We have been believers” to emphasize the speaker’s main focus (black belief)  Stanzas 1-5 are in the past tense  Description of past beliefs and experiences  Stanzas 6-8 are in the present tense  Speaker’s thoughts as to what the black community should do moving forward

15  Stanza 1  Description of traditional African beliefs  Seeress (prophetess), charmers, and the devil’s evil ones (demons)  Stanza 2  Beginning of black experience in America  “white gods of a new land” and “mercy of our masters”  Reference to white dominance  “beauty of our brothers”  Fellow blacks

16  Stanza 3  Talks of black endurance through the hardships of slavery and racism  “the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the bayonet could kill our black belief.”  Constant sense of faith, but now it is faith in Jesus  “the new Jerusalem.”  Stanza 4  Describes black service to the whites through slavery  Reference to the Moloch, a Semitic god  Describes the blacks as stubborn, strong, silent, stolid

17  Stanza 5  Speaks of the importance of the slaves to America  Their hands “wrung the necessities of a nation.”  The song and hope are references to the slaves’ actions and mindsets while working  Stanza 6  Hopes for a catalyst that will spark a movement for equality and rights  Heat imagery- “fiery iron” and “molten truths” and “tongues of living fire”

18  Stanza 7  Feels a sense of abandonment  Still optimistic that the powers and the people will hear the message that they need to revolt against racism and oppression  Stanza 8  States that they have accepted their “burdens” (slavery/racism) and their “demigods” (whites) too long  It is time to fight for rights  “Fists bleed against the bars with a strange insistency.”  Image of a person in jail who yearns to escape

19  Slaves’ whip/Lynchers’ rope/Bayonet  Representative of the oppression that the blacks faced while enslaved  Basis for the speaker’s call for change  The new Jerusalem  Image of hope and salvation for the black community  Fire  “Fiery iron”- what will cause the blacks to revolt  Fiery tongues- how the blacks will act during revolt  Gods  Black gods- depicted as good  White gods- the slaves’ masters

20  Most language is straightforward, but there are a few uncommon religious references  Seeress, Moloch  Often describes with alliteration  “secrets of the seeress”  “mercy of our masters”  “beauty of our brothers”  “silent and stolid and stubborn and strong”  “the priests and the preachers and the powers will hear”

21  The poem is understandable, but some unconventional word order is used  “And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers”  Breaks her convention of repeating the refrain at the beginning of sentences  Says “We have been believers believing in…” as opposed to “We have believed in…” to add emphasis to their belief in tradition

22  “We Have Been Believers” straightforwardly tells of the speaker’s views of black culture and experience. She notices that their old gods were replaced with new, white demigods (their masters). She describes the hardships that blacks have faced in America, specifically slavery. Her final plea to the black community shows her desire for change to occur. She doesn’t expect society to change itself. Instead, she believes that the blacks will have to work to achieve change.

23  Biographies  writers/dir/alexander_margaret_walker/ writers/dir/alexander_margaret_walker/  lker/walker.htm lker/walker.htm


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