The poem starts off with the Speaker questioning "What is Africa to me?" He starts off by describing the physical richness of the continent, with its "Copper sun" and "scarlet sea." He goes on to compare its beauty to "Eden." However, the poem starts harboring more negative connotations of Africa, as it is filled with "wild barbaric birds." It is clear that the Speaker is in conflict with his true heritage and what is expected of him from a white person's perspective. He attempts to deny the "Great drums" that are the rhythm of Africa by "(cramming) against my ear" his thumbs.
The speaker is worried that his true feelings of inherent pride of his culture will "surge and foam" from his head. He " must forget" the true meaning of "black" Africa and succumb to the white perspective. He disclaims his religious identity, "Heathen gods are naught to me" and admits to following the white religion of "Jesus Christ ." However, he does acknowledge his God must be "black" as his skin color if closely associated with the suffering oh his new religion. Thus he has infused his heritage and cannot truly let it go. He ends the poem, unable to decide which of his personas has "my heart or head."