“The Black Man’s Burden” is a poem written by H.T. Johnson, an African American. It was written and published in response to Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden”.
The fact that Johnson's poem is linked to Kipling's poem can be seen in the title, which clearly is a reference to Kipling’s poem, given the similarity. This is the first clue we have that points towards the fact that Johnson's poem is intended to be a parody of Kipling's poem. In fact, one could even argue that Johnson’s poem is a direct response to Kipling’s poem, as Kipling finishes his poem with the words “Comes now, […] the judgement of your peers.” One can therefore assume that Johnson was inspired by these words to respond to Kipling’s work, thus providing the “judgement of [his] peers” that Kipling predicted in his poem.
Kipling’s poem was written from the perspective of white colonialists, defending their quest to conquer other countries by describing it as their moral duty. Johnson’s version, on the other hand, is written from the black person’s perspective, criticizing the white people’s actions and behavior. There are several links between these two poems, which highlight the fact that Johnson’s poem is indeed a parody and a criticism of Kipling’s poem.
For example, the poems’ first lines are very similar. Johnson starts his poem with the words “Pile on the Black Man’s Burden,” which is clearly influenced by Kipling’s choice of words: “Take up the White Man's burden."
Kipling states in his poem that the white man’s task is to improve the life of the indigenous people: “Fill full the mouth of famine and bid the sickness cease.” Johnson responds to this claim in his poem by pointing out that this is, in his view, an impossible task to achieve: “In vain ye seek to end it.”