The first time I came across this poem was in 2013, in a community library back in my home village in Nambale, Busia County where I used to go pass time and add-on some knowledge. I immediately fall in love with the poem, written many many years ago.
The writer, Frances E. W. Harper was an African–American poet involved in a movement to abolish slavery around 1825-1911 (A year before the sinking of the Titanic).
The poem still evokes emotions even today. How sad, slavery — modern day slavery — is still happening today, in this century in some regions around the world.
Hope you will read it, appreciate it and celebrate the writer. Also, hope you are aware that people didn’t start fighting for what is right today. You, me and the others before us are just part of a very long chain of Freedom Fighters. Those who believe in an equal and just society.
By: Frances Ellen 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.