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Because Were

Witnesses
by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson

biographical information

Jacqueline Woodson was born on February


12th, 1963, in Columbus, Ohio.

She had an innate love for writing, but had trouble with
reading early on in school.

She moved to Greenville, South Carolina when she was eight


years old

She had family roots in South Carolina, and her time here
was the inspiration for many of her poems

She felt connected to the earth that was tended to by her


enslaved ancestors

She was never really exposed to others like her in


literature until her teenage years

She is well known for her detailed descriptions of physical


landscapes

No Halloween.
No Christmas.
No birthdays.
Even when
other kids laugh as we leave
the classroom
just as the birthday cupcakes
arrive
we pretend we do not see the
chocolate frosting,
pretend we do not want
to press our fingertips against
each colorful sprinkle and lift
them,
one by sweet one
to our mouths.

No
No
No
No

voting.
fighting.
cursing.
wars.

We will never go to war.


We will never taste the sweetness of
a classroom
birthday cupcake
We will never taste the bitterness of
a battle.

This poem compares the injustices that the speaker


faced as a child to the greater inequalities that
she faces as an adult.

As a child, she was stripped of many fun opportunities,


in and out of the classroom.

As an adult, she was not allowed to vote.

Her whole life, she had been torn of the opportunities


that white Americans took for granted

If she was not allowed any of this, she would not go to


war.

Why fight for a country that has never fought


for you?

Structure
This poem is written in free verse, and divided into four stanzas.
Its syllabic pattern is 4, 3, 3, 3, 7, 3, 7, 2, 8, 4, 6, 8, 8, 1, 4,
3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 7, 9, 3, 4, 10, 3

Analysis
The words used in this poem are relaxed and calm, yet For Example:
We will never
still solid and grounded.At the beginning of the
taste the
sweetness of a
poem, she talks of the subject softly and honestly,
classroom birthday
cupcake/
like it were a sensitive subject. The last eight
We will never
taste the
lines are harsher, more deliberate statements. She
bitterness of a
battle./
seems to get angrier as she writes, using sharper,
clashing adjectives.

Works Cited
Woodson, Jacqueline. "My Biography | Jacqueline WoodsonJacqueline Woodson."
Jacqueline Woodson. N.p., 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
"The Civil Rights Movement in Photos."
Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

CNN. Cable News Network, 8 Apr. 2014.

"USINFO Photo Gallery." USINFO Photo Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.