by Nathan Wright Jr.
“Let me be free, or let me die!”
A thousand lips across the years
Have raised this valiant cry.
Thus cried brave men across the sea;
So Patrick Henry did proclaim.
They wanted liberty.
The plea today is still the same;
Freedom denied, means there’s no life
That’s worthy of the name.
Today the people of Montgomery,
Inspired by Martin King of Gandhi fame,
Walk to fulfill their destiny.
Where peace comes at oppression’s cost
No peace can ever be but strife.
We stand . . . or all is lost.
As a young man Nathan Wright Jr. participated in the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, a precursor to the Freedom Rides challenging segregation in the South. Twenty years later, as director of urban work for the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, he chaired the first National Conference on Black Power, held in Newark in July 1967.
“We stand,” from his collection The Song of Mary (1958), has the postscript “Written on the first anniversary of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, December 1956.”