Black History: Kings and Commoners

2008-08-23 - St. Joseph Museum [FlickrSet] - 0307 by smiteme.

Photo Credit

Digging my head out of the BarBri book on my desk, I realized it was Black History Month (Ahh, my favorite time of the year!).

This being the designated month of reflection on Black history and culture, I’d be remise not to share one of my favorite poems embodying African-American experience, Dudley Randall‘s Ancestors (see below).

History, individual, family, and societal, are fundamental pillars to advancement in life.  We draw strength and inspiration from those who have come before us.  However, as is the case for many, if not most, Black Americans descended from slaves, that history is cut off from us.

Growing up, during this month, I’d hear about the great African kings, and queens, of vast kingdoms and trading empires, but never about the commoners.  By and large the majority of those brought on the Middle Passage were of that latter group (there being more commoners).  And it makes sense that we wouldn’t regard them in the same capacity as royalty.  They were commoners, of course.

However, while unnamed, at least one of them (though I could be descended from royalty, as well) shared my blood; and in some way, I view my existence today as testament (however small) to her or him.

Randall’s poem speaks to that:


Why are our ancestors
always kings and princes
and never the common people?

Was the Old Country a democracy
where every man was a king?
Or did the slave-catchers
steal only the aristocrats
and leave the field hands
street cleaners
garbage collectors
dish washers
and maids

My own ancestor
(research reveals)
was a swineherd
who tended the pigs
in the royal pig-stye
and slept in the mud among the hogs.

Yet I’m as proud of him
as of any king or prince
dreamed up in fantasies
of bygone glory.

-Dudley Randall

(Note: He also wrote “Ballad Birmingham” his most famous work.)


Why are our ancestors
always kings and princes
and never the common people?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s