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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

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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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Voices from Slavery (XHTML)



Leeds Anti-Slavery Series.  No. 66.






Written on Reading a Paper by Joseph Sturge on the

Aggravated Horrors of the Slave-Trade — Oct., 1848.





            I. — Capture and Embarkation.


Hark! to the cry from Afric’s shore,

The mingled sound of strife and battle;

            The prisoners come,

            Behold their doom;

A wretched drove of human cattle!                                      [5]


Sold for a draught of liquid fire!

Bartered for toys, that hapless band!

            Oh, who can know

            The depth of woe

That fills each heart along the strand?                                     [10]


Now packed like bales of senseless ware,

Within the vessel’s murky hold;

            Close, closer still —

            They cram, they fill —

Oh guilt enormous!  crimes untold!                                         [15]


            II. — Miseries at Sea.


Hark!  to the sound that comes from afar,

Borne o’er the waves in utterance low;

            Deep stifled moans,

            And dying groans:

That living freight of human woe!                                             [20]



Sold by W. and F.G. Cash, 5 Bishopgate Street, London; and by Jane Jowett,

Friends’ Meeting Yard, Leeds, at 1s. 2d. per 100.

[page 2]



Now the full vessel courts the wind,

O’er swelling seas they swiftly go;

            And fever burns,

            And pity spurns

The palpitating mass below!                                                      [25]


But death in mercy thins the ranks;

Pulse after pulse forgets to beat —

            They gasp, they die

            In agony —

In quenchless thirst, and maddening heat!                                  [30]


            III. — Landing in the West Indies.


Hark!  to the plaint from yonder shore,

A voice of woe, and helpless wailing —

            They land, they land

            On foreign strand,

Gaunt, trembling forms, in weakness failing!                               [35]


And now a transient dream of rest,

Ere to the human shambles driven;

            They feed them well,

            To make them sell —

Oh, mockery of mercy given!                                                     [40]


Soon as returning health appears,

To raise the feeble, nerve the strong,

            Away, away —

            In sad array —

With whip and menace urged along.                                           [45]


            IV. — Slave-Market.


Hark!  to the wail from yonder mart,

The tale of grief and anguish spoke;

            Heart torn from heart —

            Friends sold apart —

And every tie of Nature broken!                                                 [50]


[page 3]



Husbands and wives to meet no more!

Children from parents forced to sever!

            For paltry gold,

            To bondage sold,

Beyond the reach of hope for ever!                                              [55]


Oh piteous sight!  oh hapless throng!

Is there no mercy strong to save?

            Must thousands die

            In Slavery —

Their only freedom in the grave?                                                   [60]


            V. — Slave-Labour.


Hark!  to the voice from yon fair land,

Where all the sweets of Nature grow:

            Who tills the soil

            With grief and toil?

The wretched Slave!  the child of woe!                                          [65]


His tyrant-master goads him on —

He knows no sweets, he feels no rest;

            But whip and chains,

            And festering pains,

But mock the anguish of his breast!                                                [70]


Bowed down beneath the galling yoke,

Scorned and reviled, he longs to die;

            But months and years,

            ‘Mid groans and tears,

Drag on in sad captivity!                                                                [75]


            VI. — Appeal to Christians.


For whom this labour, grief and sin?

Daughters of England, can it be,


[page 4]



            That in your Isle,

            You sit and smile,

Yet clad in fruits of Slavery?                                                        [80]


“Oh, touch not, taste not, handle not,”

The produce raised on Freedom’s grave!

            Else, while you sigh

            O’er Slavery,

You press the links upon the Slave.                                              [85]


For you that strife on Afric’s shore —

For you that vessel fraught with death —

            The blood, the toil,

            That feed the soil,

The scourged limbs, the wasting breath!                                          [90]


            VII. — Freedom of the Gospel.


Christians of England, haste, arise

The Bond of Brotherhood proclaim;

            Christ died to save

            The Negro-Slave —

Freedom for all in Jesus’ name.                                                     [95]


Spirit of Liberty, descend!

And make our hearts with joy forego

            Each tempting good,

            In clothes or food,

If purchased by a brother’s woe.                                                   [100]


Let every Nation, hand in hand,

In love, and peace, and strength combined,

            United be,

            One Family,

The Brotherhood of all Mankind.                                                   [105]



Leeds Anti-Slavery Series.  No. 66


Sold by W. and F.G. Cash, 5 Bishopgate Street, London; and by Jane Jowett,

Friends’ Meeting Yard, Leeds, at 1s. 2d. per 100.