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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

Running man image from workshop poster

The Pacific Appeal was the leading African American newspaper on the West Coast during the early 1860s.  A newly-published set of eight antislavery poems from the journal's inaugural 1862 volume captures the sense of expectancy within the African American community for the imminent end of US slavery.  These poems include the work of James Madison Bell, a San Francisco plasterer, brickmason, and poet.  Read more... 
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Sudan Narratives (XHTML)

These narratives are by individuals captured and sold into slavery in their home country of Sudan by the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), a militia trained to raid villages and take people as slaves. Santino Chan Dut, Ajok Akot Arou and Ngor Mawien Akok were ‘redeemed’ (bought out of slavery) by Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a Zurich-based international human rights organization, in 1999. They told their stories to CSI staff in 1999, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Sudan. Dut Yai Yai, Gau Anyar Gau and Agor Deng were ‘redeemed’ by CSI in January 2007. They told their stories to CSI staff in Aweil State, Southern Sudan.
Santino Chan Dut
I was caught last Spring. My master was Abdullai Mohammed. He lives in Daein. I had to look after his cows and goats. Abdullai often beat me. He also sent me every night to the koranic school. Sometimes the PDF came to the school to recruit for the Mujahadeen. They said they would teach us to shoot guns and fight against the Dinka in rebel areas. They promised that I would get my own cows and goats if I did this. I refused to go with them. Because of this, Fekki Ibrahim beat me badly.
Ajok Akot Arou
I was caught in November 1994. As soon as we got information that the Murahaleen were coming, we hid in the bush. But they found us and killed many of our people, including three of my close relatives. I lost my virginity on that same day because the soldiers raped me. I was forced to walk all the way to the North. Some people who said that they couldn't walk any more were hit with sticks. Some who fell to the ground were shot dead. I had to carry a sewing machine. The raiders had looted it in Warawar. They sold it at the market in Tebun. My master was Adam Musa. He told us that we were slaves. I was repeatedly raped by him and others. As a result of this I have now two children from different men, Tong and Majok.

Ngor Mawien Akok
I was captured in 1996. Soldiers came to my village. Many people were killed in the attack, including my mother. She was shot dead. I ended up at the home of an Arab man called Mohammed. One day in the summer, about two years ago, my master's wife threw a pot of boiling water in my face. She did this because I was too weak to look after Mohammed's cattle. I received very little food in my master's home. My left eye gives me pain. I can't close it properly. I can hardly see with it any more. Other slaves in Mohammed's house were treated just the same.

Dut Yai Yai
I was enslaved when I was about four years old. I am a Muslim. When the murahaleen raiders came, they moved through the forest. I had been looking after goats and was ringing them back home.
After being captured, I was taken to a cattle camp at Omdriss. I couldn't escape. I didn't know where to go. I was captured with five other boys. Three of them were relatives. The other two were friends. We were all kept at Omdriss for about one year. Then they were scattered elsewhere. I remained in Omdriss. On the way to the North, two boys who were captured in Bako tried to escape. Their names were Bol and Garang. They were caught and had their throats cut right in front of us.
I had to walk the whole way to Omdriss. The Arabs beat me whenever I slowed down. All of us were boys, except for one lady, Ayak. Mahmoud Shegbebi was my master. He was the one that captured me. I had to look after his cows and goats. I stayed in the cattle camps. When it rained I slept under Mahmoud's shelter. Otherwise, I slept outside. Mahmoud had two other Dinka slaves, Dut and Akech. Akech was given to Mahmoud's brother Adam. They are still with their masters. They were all older than me.
The worst thing about slavery was getting sick. Even then I had to work hard. There was no rest and no money. I had to call Mahmoud “father.” But I still remember my mother and father. Mahmoud said: “You are my son and must go to Koranic school.” I was in Koranic school for one month. After that, I had lessons from a fekki in the cattle camps. I was taught that Dinka people were bad infidels. Mahmoud said: “A dog is better than an infidel.” This made me feel bad. I knew I was a Dinka. Mahmoud sent me away with nothing other than what I am wearing.
I have already seen my Uncle Yai Magok since I've been here. He has given me some food.
Gau Anyar Gau
I was captured when I was about 11 years-old. The Arabs killed many people. They shot my father. I saw him die. I don’t know what happened to my mother. My sister Achol and my brother Ngong were captured with me. But we were soon separated from each other. I never saw them again.
On the way to the North, we reached Grinty, and I couldn’t keep up with the others. One of the Arabs pulled out a knife and was going to cut my throat. But another Arab saw what was happening and jumped on the one with the knife. He saved my life. The knife cut my face instead of my throat. The Arab who saved me was Ali Majoub. He became my master. I looked after his camels. He was kind to me. He gave me the name Majoub Ali Majoub, as if I were his son.
Agor Deng
I was enslaved as a little girl. I remember my mother carrying me on the way to the North. I was repeatedly raped by my master, Adam Abakir and his associates. Sometimes, as many as four or five men did it. As a result, I bore a child.
Adam Abakir and his wife excised five of my finger nails with a knife after I failed to obey an order to grind grain. Some people heard me scream and came to help. They prevented them from cutting out the rest of my fingernails. I had no choice but to obey their orders to pray and behave like a Muslim.