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The Backstreets of Downtown Augusta

Anne Romaine
Language: English



Did you hear about Augusta Georgia
On the eleventh day of May
The year Nineteen and Seventy
It was a fateful day.

The day began as any other
People going to work
Across town to work for the bossman
To scrub the white woman's floor.

The sleepy Savannah was flowing
Same as the day before
But on the backstreet of downtown Augusta.
There was anger at every door.

The police had announced on Sunday
Charles Oatman whose age was sixteen
After being beaten and tortured
Had died in his jail cell, you see.

Was it the police or his black cell mates
It didn't matter at this point in time.
He was a child in an adult's prison
And being black was his major crime.

The soft sobs of his mother and father
Rang heavy through the backstreets of town
My baby is dead, I can't stand it
Why are we all standing around.

Five hundred angry black people
Walked down to City Hall
Silantly saying, it's over
No more will we stay here and crawl.

But over their heads waving proudly
The Confederate stars were massed
The symbol of death and of slavery
Of the present as well as the past.

The young people lunged toward the state flag
Ripped it and tore it down
As if to say this is a new day
They burned it to a curling black flame.

Teargas and machine guns were fired
By police ready near by
The crowd surged back in the struggle
Six black men were going to die.

They found them dead on the sidewalk
Shot in the back everyone
By white men themselves scared of dying
Their fear held tight to a gun.

A week later the ashes were settled
The bodies lay dead in the ground
But a new day had come to the backstreets
That our violence can never put down.


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