MANA's BLACK LIT ALIVE! is a special segment of MANA, which will have podcasts on literature produced by African American writers in the 18th century and beyond.
Poems by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper:
The Slave Auction
The sale began—young girls were there,
|Frances Ellen Watkins Harper|
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 Make'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.
The Dying Bondman
Life was trembling, faintly trembling
On the bondman's latest breath,
And he felt the chilling pressure
Of the cold, hard hand of Death.
He had been an Afric chieftain,
Worn his manhood as a crown;
But upon the field of battle
Had been fiercely stricken down.
He had longed to gain his freedom.
Waited, watched and hoped in vain,
Till his life was slowly ebbing—
Almost broken was his chain.
By his bedside stood the master,
Gazing on the dying one,
Knowing by the dull grey shadows
That life's sands were almost run.
"Master," said the dying bondman,
"Home and friends I soon shall see;
But before I reach my country,
Master write that I am free;
"For the spirits of my fathers
Would shrink back from me in pride,
If I told them at our greeting
I a slave had lived and died;
"Give to me the precious token,
That my kindred dead may see—
Master! write it, write it quickly!
Master! write that I am free!"
At his earnest plea the master
Wrote for him the glad release,
O'er his wan and wasted features
Flitted one sweet smile of peace.
Eagerly he grasped the writing;
"I am free!" at last he said.
Backward fell upon the pillow,
He was free among the dead.