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  #1  
Unread 01-17-2022, 10:16 AM
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Default ML King's Periodic Poetry

ML King’s Periodic Poetry

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say "wait."

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodyness" -- then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
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Unread 01-19-2022, 05:00 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
Ralph, I took the liberty:


But when you have seen vicious mobs
Lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown
your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen
hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill
your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see
the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering
in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you
suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek
to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park
that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she
is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct
an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white
people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive
and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners
of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you
are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs
reading "white" and "colored"; when your first
name becomes "nigger" and your middle name
becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your
last name becomes "John," and when your wife
and mother are never given the respected title
"Mrs."; when you are harried by day
and haunted by night by the fact
that you are a Negro

living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodyness" then you will understand

why we find it difficult


to wait.


.
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  #3  
Unread 01-19-2022, 11:53 AM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Hi Ralph,

Thanks for posting this. I feel the darts, albeit low on the spectrum, just threats of violence rather than the thing itself for the most part. But I do know people who've been attacked, among them close friends, and it makes my blood boil. Strong stuff.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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Unread 01-19-2022, 04:44 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Thanks for looking in Jim and Fliss.

It’s interesting where the rhetoric takes a reader of its theme of “waiting” for recognition and justice. I used to teach it at times as the most effective periodic (or suspended) sentence I’ve ever seen. As he repeats the “when” events list of what Black Americans have had to wait, repeated by “and”, he makes a reader wait in suspense of where the sentence will end, its period. I inevitably cry by the end of reading this aloud. It’s extremely controlled extreme emotion.

ML King’s Periodic Poetry in Letter From Birmingham Jail

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say "wait."

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim;

when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity;

when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;

when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television,

and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children,

and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky,

and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people;

when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?";

when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you;

when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored";

when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John,"

and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs.";

when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next,

and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments;

when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodyness" –

then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
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Last edited by RCL; 01-19-2022 at 05:02 PM.
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Unread 01-19-2022, 06:40 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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You're welcome, Ralph

Yes, it is interesting. I don't know much (if anything) about periodic or suspended sentences, and I'm glad to learn. I can see how this is effective and I understand the effect that reading it aloud has on you.

I think I've found the full letter, here?

Thanks again for posting this.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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Unread 01-20-2022, 07:00 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is online now
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This seems to me, a good demonstration, actually, of the difference between poetry and rhetoric.
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