IF WE MUST DIE is a very powerful piece. The feeling that resonates throughout the poem is the conflict between whites and blacks. Since the poem was written in 1919, it correlates with the race riots that occurred at that particular time in several cities throughout the United States.
The race riots were obviously white people attacking black neighborhoods, and so forth. Many blacks were murdered and the mass lynchings stretched from city to city. Another example that supports the race riot theory is the mention of “mad and hungry dogs” in line three. The usage of the phrase is appropriate, for history verifies that dogs were used to attack, subdue, frighten, and murder blacks.
It seems as if he wants to be killed in a kind manner, rather than being tortured and dying terribly, supported by lines one and five. He uses the phrase “if we must die” a couple of times, indicating that he doesn’t want to be killed horribly. For that reason, furious action must be taken and that action is to strike back.