“The Little Black Boy” by William Blake: A Little Racist?

Stuff Jeff Reads

LittleBlackBoyContinuing through my copy of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, the next poem up was “The Little Black Boy” (click here to read the poem online). I have to say, although I love Blake’s works, this one rubbed me the wrong way. I found it to be a little racist.

The poem opens with a black boy comparing himself to a white boy and basically saying that he is “bereav’d of light” because he is black, but that the white boy is angelic.

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child: 
But I am black as if bereav’d of light.

This immediately turned me off and it was hard for me to shake my distaste as I read the rest of the poem. Even having the black boy say “but…

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