Poetics and Music

Poetics and Music

Transcript below

Abolition-minded poetry and music got to the heart of the matter using few lyrics, generally. Poetry and musical lyrics were printed in collections as well as re-published as complements to essays and speeches in anti-slavery newspapers, almanacs, and children’s books. They were also printed and sold as broadsides at anti-slavery meetings and other events. The items in this section include those that take on the persona of enslaved individuals to address their inner turmoil and longings. Other pieces recount the everyday horrors with which the enslaved were forced to contend from the Middle Passage to the plantation. 


“A Contribution to the Bazaar, Held in Shrewsbury…” is an example of a broadside that was likely printed widely and sold at a fundraising fair with the proceeds going back into the coffers for the abolitionist movement in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. Another significant, though pocket-sized piece, The Sorrows of Yamba; Or the Negro Woman’s Lamentation, is an anti-slavery poem that is a lament about a Black woman’s separation from her child, the mother’s depression and suicidal ideation, the horrors of the Middle Passage, and Christian salvation. The Sorrows of Yamba was one of the most popular anti-slavery poems of its time and was reprinted often. From the poem:

In St. Lucie's distant isle,

     Still with Afric's love I burn;

Parted many a thousand mile,

     Never, never to return.

Come, kind death! and give me rest,

     Yamba has no friend but thee;

Thou can'st ease my throbbing breast,

     Thou can'st set the Prisoner free.

Down my cheeks the tears are dripping,

     Broken is my heart with grief;

Mangled my poor flesh with whipping,

     Come kind death! and bring relief.

Born on Afric's Golden Coast,

     Once I was as blest as you;

Parents tender I could boast,

     Husband dear, and children too (lines 1-16).


End of Transcript

Installation Image by Roy Rochlin. Latimer/Edison Gallery, Schomburg Center