“don’t knock here nomore ’cause i done voted”

by Betty H. Neals

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Election Day, Newark, N.J., June 16, 1970

We went on foot
and in cars,
in hallways and bars
calling the people to vote.

In one building
a knotted string tied to a card
hung on the door:

        “Don’t knock here nomore
        ’cause I done voted!
        Yes, voted for the 1-A team,
        don’t want to lose this loaded dream.
        Let’s clear the air
        ’bout whether Black folks can unite.’

        “Don’t knock here nomore
        ’cause I done voted.
        Since early morning
        workers came to see to that.
        Marched us down to the voting poll
        and said, ‘Let’s try once more with Soul!’
        Let’s clear the air
        ’bout whether Black folks can unite.

        “Don’t knock here nomore
        ’cause I done voted.”
        This knotted string tied to
        a card hung on the door.
        “Our people have the spirit now,
        Gon’ let nobody turn us ‘roun’
        Let’s clear the air
        ’bout whether Black folks can unite.”

Defeating incumbent Hugh Addonizio in a runoff election, Kenneth Gibson became the first African American mayor of a large northeastern city. Through daunting social, economic and political challenges, Gibson would serve four consecutive terms as Newark’s mayor.

Betty Neals’s portrayal of the historic 1970 vote was published in her collection Spirit Weaving.

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