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The poem "For My People" by Margaret Walker, originally published in 1942 and awarded the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets prize and publication by Yale University Press, is written in the form of a list or catalog of the injustices suffered by the African-American people. Walker herself, the daughter of a Methodist minister, received an MFA and PhD from University of Iowa, and as a scholar was particularly important in the study of the history and creative works of black people in the United States.
In both poetic form and subject matter, "For My People" is heavily influenced by the Psalms of the Bible, especially in the way Walker uses repetition and amplification to build up a form of lamentation which emphasizes not individual sorrow, but the sorrow of a whole people, oppressed and in exile, very much as the Psalms portray the Jews mourning in exile in Babylon.
Although the main part of the poem consists of lamentation and mourning, just as the Psalms offer the possibility of redemption, so the end of "For My People" shifts to a martial and optimistic mood, and offers the possibility of hope and triumph:
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. ... Let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood ... let the dirges disappear.
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