This poem, originally written as a song to be sung by black school children, comprises three verses. Ultimately, its tone and mood are uplifting and hopeful, but the stanzas of course reference the African American experience as it once was and a future which does not yet exist.
In the first stanza, the note of hope is predominant. Here, the speakers are stating their intention to "rise." They take courage from the hope of liberty that eventually, their "march" will lead them successfully to a world where they are equal. There is an acknowledgement here that this world has not yet been reached, but the speakers express their determination to continue with their march until "victory" is theirs.
The second stanza is a reflection on the "stony" and painful history endured by black people in America. It acknowledges that blacks have only reached the place in which they now stand through the "blood of the slaughtered," but it continues to maintain a hopeful note by declaring that now this past is behind them and that they stand beneath the "white gleam" of a hopeful star.
The final stanza of the poem is an appeal and an avowal to God. In this stanza, the speakers declare their determination to remain "true to our God" and to their "native land," which is, in this context, the USA. The speakers thank God for having led them out of the darkness and vow not to forget him as they emerge into the light.