“The Black Man’s Burden”: A Response to Kipling
In February 1899, British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem entitled “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.” In this poem, Kipling urged the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations. Theodore Roosevelt, soon to become vice-president and then president, described it as “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.” Not everyone was as favorably impressed as Roosevelt. African Americans, among many others, objected to the notion of the “white man’s burden.” Among the dozens of replies to Kipling’s poem was “The Black Man’s Burden,” written by African-American clergyman and editor H. T. Johnson and published in April 1899. A “Black Man’s Burden Association” was even organized with the goal of demonstrating that mistreatment of brown people in the Philippines was an extension of the mistreatment of black Americans at home.
Pile on the Black Man’s Burden.
'Tis nearest at your door;
Why heed long bleeding Cuba,
or dark Hawaii’s shore?
Hail ye your fearless armies,
Which menace feeble folks
Who fight with clubs and arrows
and brook your rifle’s smoke.
Pile on the Black Man’s Burden
His wail with laughter drown
You’ve sealed the Red Man’s problem,
And will take up the Brown,
In vain ye seek to end it,
With bullets, blood or death
Better by far defend it
With honor’s holy breath.
Source: H.T. Johnson, “The Black Man’s Burden,” Voice of Missions, VII (Atlanta: April 1899), 1. Reprinted in Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., Black Americans and the White Man’s Burden, 1898–1903 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press), 1975, 183–184.
“White Man’s Burden” Essay
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Rudyard Kipling’s 1899 poem “The White Man’s Burden” epitomizes the European man’s view on imperialism, Euro-centrism and social Darwinism. Four centuries before 1899, such ideas were briefly hinted in the letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, however by 1899 these attitudes strengthened and developed fully into their complete meaning. The U.S and Europe’s imperialism in the nineteenth century were the most influential ever in the history of human civilization. The immense motive for imperialism came from social factors including religion and Social Darwinism.
Missionaries frequently rushed to Africa and Asia to convert its people to Christianity. On the other hand, social Darwinism argued the survival of…show more content…
"Taking care" indicates improvement of their culture until they reach that of the Euro-American standards which makes it clear that “The White man’s Burden” proposes that the phase after exploration is the self-centered education of the colonial population. The same month Kipling's poem was published, the Treaty of Paris was ratified and the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam were acquired by the United States while Cuba remained occupied by the military. Advocates of this acquisition gravitated to the poem and popularized it as the literary voice of "benevolent assimilation." The poem makes clear Kipling's view of attitudes that allowed colonialism to proceed. Although a belief in the virtues of empire was widespread at the time, there were also many dissenters; the publication of the poem caused a flurry of arguments from both sides, most notably from Mark Twain and Henry James. Mark Twain asserted that Kipling wrote the poem to help persuade many doubting Americans to seize the Philippines, which seemed to be a fair point of view for that time period. In the New York Herald, October 15, 1900, Twain describes his transformation and political awakening, in the context of the Philippine-American War. He recognizes his transformation from being Pro- imperialist to Anti- imperialist. Many Anti-imperialists like Mark Twain acted on the popularity of the poem to attack the McKinley’s policies as too great a "burden" or