Common Dust By: Georgia Douglas Johnson
The main Idea of this poem is equality, I mean that as
human beings we all share the commonality of how our lives begin and how they end.
Despite cultural differences, everyone experiences being born and dying.
Johnson focuses on equality which of course played a major role in the Harlem
Renaissance, which was when the poem was written. She writes “The high, the
low, the poor, / The black, the white, the red,” to convey her message of how
we may all come from different backgrounds and have many different events and experiences
throughout our life, but we all share the commonality of mortality, and this
helps us to connect to other human beings.
The poet speaker in Common Dust is someone who thinks to themselves
if our race or position in society has any effect after death when we are nothing
Johnson wrote the poem in an obvious way that allows the
reader to comprehend the poem quickly and the reasons behind it. She writes about
opposite classes, Rome and Africa, the rich and the poor, and questions the reader
if any of that matters after the greatest equalizer, death. On the surface it appears
cut and simple, however Johnson uses some deeper meaning in her words, specifically
the colors she mentions; black, white and red. Typically, black is associated with
being lost, physically or emotionally. White is often used to represent innocence
and purity, and finally red is used to represent passion or rage. After this,
Africa, Rome, and the unlabeled are brought up which could also relate to the
desperate situation of Africa, the power and might Rome once held, and the
innocence of the unlabeled, I.E. being lost, purity and might/rage, as with the
mentioned colors. Above the deeper meaning, the colors represent what they sound
like, the struggles that all races have daily.