“A Sonnet to Negro Soldiers”

“A Sonnet to Negro Soldiers” argues that negro soldiers are fighting just like white soldiers and will die the same death. It argues that watching them die should claim their equality to white soldiers, though they are looked down upon. Many words stand out, and Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr. capitalizes certain words to make them stand out even more. Those words include Life’s Borderland, Living Hell, Resurrection Morn, Faith, Prejudice, and Liberty. These are the most important words in the sonnet as they depict what it happening during the time this sonnet is published (near the end of WWI). I think that Life’s Borderland and Living Hell are the battlefield, because the soldiers don’t know what is going to happen. I think that Resurrection Morn is mourning the loss of friends that have died, while Faith is believing in a higher power that says you will not die. Prejudice could mean that the other soldiers are prejudice to the black soldiers and want them to die first, while Liberty is the positive ending showing that both are equal when it comes to death. These words are employed to make the argument stronger and create more interpretation for the reader.

I think the language of race is different from “A Sonnet to Negro Soldiers” and “The New Freewoman.” I think that the language is more harsh and straightforward in “A Sonnet to Negro Soldiers,” like the use of negro that is degrading and the word prejudice is straight forward. I feel like the language in “The New Freewoman” is more intellectual and less offensive.

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3 thoughts on ““A Sonnet to Negro Soldiers”

  1. I agree with you about the language of the piece, it is undoubtedly a lot more straightforward and with a lot less fluff than most of the content in “The New Freewoman.” However, I was surprised by the level of religious type content within such an opinionated piece. Is this due to the author’s style or just how he best thought he could insight some action out of the audience?

    The one other question I had after reading this article is how did the audience react after reading the piece? Given that the magazine was put out by the NAACP, the audience would have been primarily African Americans, and, it is probably safe to assume, intellectual/educated African Americans. In some ways it did remind me of the New Freewoman in that there was a good amount of emotionally charged language / ethos and only a little logic / logos. Therefore, it seems to me that both journals had the same purpose, insight action without giving much deep thought on the matter.

  2. Even though this article is a sonnet I defiantly feel as if I can understand it better than some of the articles in “The New Freewoman”. The sonnet also allows me to connect to what it felt like to be a negro solder at the time. I also feel as if the religious aspect was not only a way to connect with the audience, but I believe the author also connected it. The sonnet reminds me of songs that were sung generation to generation by African Americans in the times of slaves, especially in the last two lines of the sonnet. “The Crisis” defiantly feels more professional, though, than “The New Freewoman.” It never seems as if emotions overcame the logic in the magazine.

  3. I like what you both have to say about the subject of “A Sonnet to Negro Soldiers”. “The New Freewoman” is definitely less offensive but that is probably because they had to be. Women had to fit a certain mold to be taken seriously so they had to be inoffensive and intelligible. In the first wave of feminism there were radicals but it was not the same as today. They were looking for the right to vote and they said it was because of their duty to the family unit. Women, although they may have believed it, were not going out and telling men that women’s humanity was equal to theirs. No, they played to their strengths as the respectable family center. POC did not have this advantage, they had to be radical and in your face. “The Crisis” was written for a far different audience and their use of emotionally charged language that was both jarring and moving was what they needed to elucidate the circumstances of POC during this time.

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