Frances Harper (1825-1911), who campaigned against slavery and helped escaped slaves, wrote this poem. She also often read her poetry at public meetings – seeing creativity intricately linked into real life and struggles.
The Slave Auction
The sale began – young girls were there,
Defenceless in their wretchedness,
Whose stifled sobs of deep despair
Revealed their anguish and distress.
And mothers stood with streaming eyes,
And saw their clearest 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
Gaz’d 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 Maker’s hand,
And frail and shrinking children, too,
Were gathered in that mournful bando
Ye who have laid your love to rest,
And wept above their lifeless clay,
Know not the anguish of that breast,
Whose lov’d 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.