Sunday Poem ~

The Slave Auction
The sale began—young girls were there,
   Defenseless in their wretchedness,
Whose stifled sobs of deep despair
   Revealed their anguish and distress.
And mothers stood, with streaming eyes,
   And saw their dearest children sold;
Unheeded rose their bitter cries,
   While tyrants bartered them for gold.
And woman, with her love and truth—
   For these in sable forms may dwell—
Gazed on the husband of her youth,
   With anguish none may paint or tell.
And men, whose sole crime was their hue,
   The impress of their Maker’s hand,
And frail and shrinking children too,
   Were gathered in that mournful band.
Ye who have laid your loved to rest,
   And wept above their lifeless clay,
Know not the anguish of that breast,
   Whose loved are rudely torn away.
Ye may not know how desolate
   Are bosoms rudely forced to part,
And how a dull and heavy weight
   Will press the life-drops from the heart.
Source: American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (The Library of America, 1993)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/47686

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Poet Details

1825–1911

Born in Baltimore, poet, fiction writer, journalist, and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was the only child of free African American parents. She was raised by her aunt and uncle after her mother died when Frances was three years old. She attended the Academy for Negro Youth, a school run by her uncle, until the age of 13, and then found domestic work in a Quaker household, where she had access to a wide range of literature. After teaching for two years in Ohio and Pennsylvania, she embarked on a career as a traveling speaker on the abolitionist circuit. She helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad and wrote frequently for anti-slavery newspapers, earning her a reputation as the mother of African American journalism.

A prolific writer, Harper published many collections of poetry, including Autumn Leaves (also published as Forest Leaves) (1845); Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854), which was reprinted 20 times; Sketches of Southern Life (1872), which chronicles Reconstruction; Poems (1857); The Martyr of Alabama and Other Poems (1892); The Sparrow’s Fall and Other Poems (1894); and Atlanta Offering (1895). Harper also published several novels, including Iola Leroy (1892), and essay collections. Her short story “The Two Offers” was the first short story published by an African American. Her poetry has been collected in Complete Poems of Frances E.W. Harper (1988, ed. Maryemma Graham), and her prose in A Brighter Coming Day (1990, ed. Frances Smith Foster).

She married Fenton Harper in 1860. He brought to the marriage three children of his own, and together they had a daughter. When her husband died in 1864, Harper continued to support her family though speaking engagements. During Reconstruction she was an activist for civil rights, women’s rights, and educational opportunities for all. She was superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union, co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women, and a member of the American Women’s Suffrage Association. Harper was also the director of the American Association of Colored Youth.

She was active in both African Methodist Episcopalian and Unitarian Universalist churches, and was buried in Philadelphia’s Eden Cemetery, next to her daughter Mary.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/frances-ellen-watkins-harper

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. patpaints43
    Feb 05, 2017 @ 16:17:24

    Wow… tragic. Strong. Beautiful. Eloquent…

    Reply

  2. Victoria Kaloss
    Feb 05, 2017 @ 21:16:53

    I found this author and poem to be especially poignant for 2017 Black History Month – thanks for noticing her work(s).

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: