Bury Me in a Free Land

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"Bury Me in a Free Land" is a poem by African-American abolitionist Frances Harper, written for The Anti-Slavery Bugle newspaper in 1858.[1] It reads:

Bury Me in a Free Land
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.[1]

This poem was recited in the film August 28: A Day in the Life of a People, which debuted at the opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016.[2][3][4]

An excerpt from the poem is on a wall of the Contemplative Court, a space for reflection in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The excerpt reads: "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."[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Carol Rumens (February 27, 2017). "Poem of the week: Bury Me in a Free Land by Frances EW Harper". The Guardian. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  2. ^ Davis, Rachaell (September 22, 2016). "Why Is August 28 So Special To Black People? Ava DuVernay Reveals All In New NMAAHC Film". Essence.
  3. ^ a b Keyes, Allison (2017). ""In This Quiet Space for Contemplation, a Fountain Rains Down Calming Waters"". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  4. ^ Gooden, Tai (August 28, 2018). "Ava Duvernay's 'August 28' Delves Into Just How Monumental That Date Is To Black History In America". Bustle.com. Retrieved August 30, 2018.