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Thread: On Being Brought From Africa to America

  1. #1
    in a blue moon amuse's Avatar
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    Feb 2004
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    On Being Brought From Africa to America

    We studied a few of Phyllis Wheatley's (1753-1754)poems today in my class, Race and Ethnicity in America.
    It was amazing for her to be so educated because she was
    a. young (a poet and fluent in Greek and Latin by age 10)
    b. female
    c. a Negro slave

    Because of the times in which she lived, she had to couch her political agendas, and speak out against slavery by appealing to American's outrage against Britain's tyranny.

    this was one we looked at:

    On Being Brought From Africa to America

    "Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
    Taught my benighted soul to understand
    That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
    Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
    Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
    "Their colour is a diabolic die."
    Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
    May be refin'd and join th'angelic train.

    i know she had a tendency to proselytize; maybe that's what i don't like, but i think it's more that she accepts people, Negros as unrefined until converted...*sigh
    and yet my instructor sees it as a poem where the equality of all peoples is lauded. so maybe i'm being reactionary.

    Last edited by amuse; 01-26-2005 at 09:44 PM.
    the air and water have been here a long time, and they are telling stories.

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Aug 2004
    While paging through an old poetry anthology book I own for a former poetry course in college, I came across the preceding poem by Phyllis Wheatley, feeling especially touched. I remembered this thread (thank you for sharing the wonderful work, amuse).
    Additionally, on the next page, I found the following poem by Maya Angelou (rich with symbolism) that relates to Wheatley's "On Being Brought from Africa to America."


    Thus she had lain
    sugar cane sweet
    deserts her hair
    golden her feet
    mountains her breasts
    two Niles her tears
    Thus she has lain
    Black through the years.

    Over the white seas
    rime white and cold
    brigands ungentled
    icicle bold
    took her young daughters
    sold her strong sons
    churched her with Jesus
    bled her with guns.
    Thus she has lain.

    Now she is rising
    remember her pain
    remember the losses
    her screams loud and vain
    remember her riches
    her history slain
    now she is striding
    although she had lain.

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