September 24, 1825 – Frances Watkins Harper was born in Baltimore, Maryland, as a free woman; African-American abolitionist, lecturer, poet, and author. She published her first book of poetry at age 20, and became the first American black woman to publish a short story, “Two Offers,” in the Anglo-African in 1859. Her novel Iola Leroy, published in 1892, was widely praised. She was part of the Underground Railroad in the 1850s, and was a public speaker for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and an advocate for woman suffrage and for prohibition. In 1894, she was a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Women, and served as its first vice president.
To read “Bury Me in a Free Land” by Frances Watkins Harper click:
Bury Me in a Free Land
by Frances Watkins Harper
Make me a grave where’er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth’s humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.
I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.
I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother’s shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.
I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.
I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.
If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.
I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.
I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.
This poem is in the public domain.