non-fiction, writing

How it Was for Black Men of the Railroads

Photo by Johannes Rapprich on

Slaves moved from the fields to the railroad jobs

not called by their name, but names they called them.

Working on the railroad was hard for blacks

they risked their lives jumping from car to car

the color of their skin ruled what they did

taking risks not really a choice, you see.

Laws kept the black man from more skilled jobs

even though they had exceptional skills.

Laying track though rough lands and tunnels too—

shovels, picks, axes, explosives were used.

Bring along the wheelbarrows, ropes, and mules

driving heavy spikes precisely trued up.

Precision was important for setting rails

no doubt any slight difference caused death.

Derailment came if not measured right

and the black man made sure others were safe.

Black prisoners had the riskiest jobs

often left to die when falling from cliffs.

Nothing to be said for their souls right then;

they considered them less than valued life,

and the way they became such laborers

did not match the crime or even confirmed.

A Pullman job was prestigious, true

but they treated them just like equipment.

Life back then, the way they treated black men,

inspired the movements of civil rights.

Sleeping Car Porters had a brotherhood

inspired by treatment of these nameless souls.

It would be many years before a change

many souls would march for their civil rights—

Randolph, King, Malcolm X to name just some

to step forth for souls until kingdom comes.


This poem was inspired from research I have done after learning of the black prisoners who lost their lives working for the railroads and the suspicious ways they came into being imprisoned. And for the treatment of railroad workers who went straight from slavery to continued enslavement, yet believing in a dream.


Dedication: Maya Angelou

Alone by Maya Angelou

Today’s devotional post is to the late, great Maya Angelou. Please read the poem “Alone” in the above link. Copyright prevents by sharing it directly. I am most grateful for doing the work to post beautiful works of our poets.

Following is my attempt at writing to this poem. It in no way begins to touch what Ms. Angelou wrote, but by studying and writing to a poem it helps take us to another level of understanding. I invite you to try this challenge.

Inspired by Maya Angelou 1928-2014

Never Alone

Thoughtful of silence,
Living life at a snail’s pace,
Isn’t it better?
Living life alone, just one,
Could it possibly be best?

Watching the rat race,
People run hither and yon,
Breathing heavily,
Keeping pace with the latest,
Fantacizing about things.

How about catching
All the rhythyms of the rain,
Watching suns melting,
Feeling the steamy rising,
Is this better-after all?

Shadows of darkness
Comforting the fearful man,
Why does it matter?
Is he better off alone?
Does he feel the onlyness?

Fearing the sunshine
When the drink is not enough,
When shoes fall apart
As hot asphalt burns the soles,
His stomach rumbles often.

Best thing I can tell,
There’s no need to fool ourselves.
It’s not happening.
There is no way to survive
Believing we are all alone.

Take the busy man,
Spirited to run the race,
Thinks his road is high,
Sun still finds his balding head,
Rain still trickles on his face.

Silence is for breaking.
Ceilings breaking, glass released,
Life is made for each
Making it better for all.
Otherwise-we all suffer.

Taking paces back,
Influencing these hard times,
Making the changes
Needed to resolve the needs
Focusing on peaceful ends.

by Lisa Tomey