Aside from the fact that he’s a member of an oppressed population, we don’t know much about the speaker of “If We Must Die.” Throughout the poem, he addresses the members of a group, but details about this group are likewise unspecified. It’s clear, though, that whatever else unites this group, the members are bound together by their shared oppression. Because of McKay’s background as a Black Jamaican who grew up as a subject of the British Empire, it’s reasonable to interpret that the speaker is addressing anti-Black racism or colonial subjugation—or, most likely, both. But regardless of the specific details about his background, the speaker exudes pride and courage. His pride comes across in his desire not to suffer the indignity forced upon him and his compatriots. He also shows great courage when he calls on his compatriots to resist their oppressors and to assert their sense of honor and self-respect in the face of inevitable death. The stakes of their situation are grave indeed. Even so, the speaker insists on the value and even nobility of their resistance, revealing him to be a heroic revolutionary figure.

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