141 Textual Introduction

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The Slave Auction  was written by Francis Ellen Watkins Harper in 1846. This poem talks about the events that go on in an actual slave trade and how it can separate loved ones such as married couples, and young children are torn apart form each other. The poem gives the reader a horrible visual of young girls and women being used in the slave trade and treated like sexual objects and housemaids of their masters. Watkins Harper does a good job by capturing the feelings of sadness by using words such as “wretchedness” “lifeless clay” and “deep despair”.  This went on to be one of her most successful works.

“Bury me in a free land” was published in 1847 and also went on to be one of Harper’s most successful poems due to the positive critical acclaim it received. The poem touches on Harper’s views of not wanting to be buried in a land where her people are still enslaved and are working over her corpse which will not allow her to be at eternal rest. She says that she would not want to hear the “tread of a coffle gang of shambles” that would have her turning in her grave. She talks about how she is not doing this for acknowledgement but to see her fellow African-Americans free from their struggle.

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Textual Introduction by Timothy Robbins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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