Social Justice Poetry

civil rights poems

Wanda | A Social Justice Poem by Roy Pullam

Your control
Ran cool and deep
As you spoke
To power
They wanted you
To scrap and bow
As others
Of your skin
Color did
How they
Resented your opinions
That turned
Their necks red
But emptied your spleen
Black men
Swung for
Years before
But words
A free
Black woman
Confirmed by right
Stiffened in resolve
By injustice
You would not accept
I smiled
At your courage
How hot the truth
The unexpected scald
That helped them
Find their place

Nevertheless, She Persisted | A Social Justice Poem by Tricia Knoll

Rosa, Malala, Coretta, Michelle, Winona, Angela
saw the barriers, jumped the hurdles or stood in front of them
saying I’m not jumping any more. I’m standing here, a woman,

who learned from my mother and her mother and her mother before her
that to persist is the same as resist. To go the long way, to step up and out, go high where they go low. I’m standing here, a woman,

to say the words I must say.

I Still Have a Dream | A Social Justice Poem by Vern Fein

It comes as a stark reminder in a text snapshot,
My infant grandson, sprawled smiling on the stone block in D.C.:
I have a dream,
The great King’s legacy.
When I was born, there was no articulated dream.
Only the dream in the hearts of those who could not speak it.
The arrogant looks, beatings, shootings, lynchings.
My parents, unawares, could not dream.
Now, my son, the father of my grand boy, can dream.
He placed his wriggly son on that sun-drenched stone today.
Yes, Dr. King, my grandson may well walk hand and hand with your great-granddaughter.
Not for everyone yet.
But I still have a dream.

Another Birthday for Dr. Martin Luther King | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

The longer I live the greater Martin Luther King looks
compared with those who have tried to carry on his work.
The man had integrity, guts, ideas and class.

It was heartbreaking in the Sixties to be young and
filled with hope for change in America, only to see
JFK, MLK and RFK murdered in the same decade.

Young people of all kinds had hope back then even if
we saw little change. We thought it was time for a quiet
revolution of ideas in America. That never happened.

My hope is Mike Pence doesn’t succeed Donald Trump
the way Lyndon Johnson succeeded Jack Kennedy. We must
find a peaceful way to get through these next four years.

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Dr. King Makes Me | A Social Justice Poem by G. Louis Heath

Dr. King makes me
smell mint, yes he does.
You may call that sick
but it’s true. He makes me smell mint.
You may even say I’m oblivious,
insensitive, politically incorrect.
But mint had its way with me on April 4, 1968,
that day of days, that sorrow of sorrows.
I walked that day on campus past a mint garden
where I basked in the fragrance.
Soon I heard a radio on the street, words from Clio,
news flash burning away afternoon fragrance.
I could not believe what I heard.
A crazed bullet had martyred Dr. King.

Over the years, at Dr. King Birthday events,
I have smelled mint, stronger and stronger
as each year passes.

On April 8, 1968, I was walking onto the University of California at Berkeley campus from where I lived at International House. Over the years, I had come to look forward to the spring fragrance of mint in a University garden. Just as I sauntered into the most intense mint fragrance, the shot heard round the world forever linked mint with the assassination of Dr. King for me.