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On "Black Star Line"


George Austin Jones
[Click here for Information on Marcus Garvey]

This is perhaps the most profound tribute paid to The Right Excellent Marcus Mossiah Garvey, his message, and his movement. Dumas takes us beyond the misconception that Garvey's basic philosophy was centered around the raising of funds to buy steamships to take long lost souls back to Africa. One Liberia per century is sufficient. Black is indubitably an international and universal reality. There has never been or never will be a need to return a people to where they presently are. Such action would not only be illogical, it would have been counterproductive to Garvey's idea/plan of establishing a Harlem, U. S. A., base for international trade. Dumas reminds us that those who pirate Blacks do not possess perpetual options to the vast waters, and that the Ebony cup can also be filled if dipped deep enough.

From "A Tribute to the Right Excellent Poet." Black American Literature Forum. Volume 22, Number 2 (Summer 1988). Copyright 1988 by Indiana University Press.


Clyde Taylor

Langston Hughes sounded an authentic Afro prophetic note in his lines, "I have known rivers / My soul is ancient and deep like the rivers." Dumas's perception of the depth of Afro spiritual aspiration makes the reverence of that vision not only a memory but a condition of being, takes you into those rivers with a sense of going somewhere:

    Sons, my sons,
dip into this river with your ebony cups
A vessel of knowledge sails under power.
Study stars as well as currents.
Dip into this river with your ebony cups.

From "Legacy of a Long-Breath Singer." Black American Literature Forum. Volume 22, Number 2 (Summer 1988). Copyright 1988 by Indiana University Press.


Nia Damali

Dumas’s use of Black music doesn't stop at the Blues. He is equally as fluent in the narrative gospel idiom. Note the gospel story undertone in "Black Star Line":

My black mothers I hear them singing.
    Children of my flesh,
dip into the river with your ebony cups.
A ship of knowledge sails unto wisdom.
Study what mars and what lifts up.
Dip into this river with your ebony cups.

In this piece, one can faintly hear hints of the gospel song "Wade in the Water." Dumas urges Black "sons" to take a deep look at their exemplary history and to learn from it.

From "Dumas: A Man and His Work." Black American Literature Forum. Volume 22, Number 2 (Summer 1988). Copyright 1988 by Indiana University Press.


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