Poem: “The Natives of America” by Ann Plato

0 Posted by - April 17, 2018 - Black First, History, LATEST POSTS

Ann Plato was a nineteenth century educator and author. Plato was born around 1820 in Hartford, Connecticut. There is very little known about her early life. Most of the information known about her life comes from comes from the introduction in her book that was written by Reverend W.C. Pennington, pastor of the Colored Congregational Church of Hartford, who also called her “Platoess”.

Plato was one of the first black women to publish a book in America and was the first Black woman to publish a book of essays.
She worked as a school teacher at the Black Zion Methodist Church School of Hartford. She was also a member of the Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford. In 1841, Plato published her only known book entitled, Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Poetry.

The writings reflected the New England Puritan values of her environment. Topics for the essays included “Benevolence,” “Education,” “Employment” and “Religion.” The date of Anne Plato’s death is unknown.

The Natives of America

By Ann Plato

Tell me a story, father please,
And then I sat upon his knees.
Then answer’d he,—“what speech make known,
Or tell the words of native tone,
Of how my Indian fathers dwelt,
And, of sore oppression felt;
And how they mourned a land serene,
It was an ever mournful theme.”

Yes, I replied,—I like to hear,
And bring my father’s spirit near;
Of every pain they did forego,
Oh, please to tell me all you know.
In history often I do read,
Of pain which none but they did heed.

He thus began. “We were a happy race,
When we no tongue but ours did trace,
We were in ever peace,
We sold, we did release—
Our brethren, far remote, and far unknown,
And spake to them in silent, tender tone.
We all were then as in one band,
We join’d and took each others hand;
Our dress was suited to the clime,
Our food was such as roam’d that time,
Our houses were of sticks compos’d;
No matter,—for they us enclos’d.

But then discover’d was this land indeed
By European men; who then had need
Of this far country. Columbus came afar,
And thus before we could say Ah!
What meaneth this?—we fell in cruel hands.

Though some were kind, yet others then held bands
Of cruel oppression. Then too, foretold our chief,—
Beggars you will become—is my belief.
We sold, then some bought lands,
We altogether moved in foreign hands.

Wars ensued. They knew the handling of firearms.
Mothers spoke,—no fear this breast alarms,
They will not cruelly us oppress,
Or thus our lands possess.
Alas! it was a cruel day; we were crush’d:
Into the dark, dark woods we rush’d
To seek a refuge.

My daughter, we are now diminish’d, unknown,
Unfelt! Alas! No tender tone
To cheer us when the hunt is done;
Fathers sleep,—we’re silent every one.

Oh! silent the horror, and fierce the fight,
When my brothers were shrouded in night;
Strangers did us invade—strangers destroy’d
The fields, which were by us enjoy’d.

Our country is cultur’d, and looks all sublime,
Our fathers are sleeping who lived in the time
That I tell. Oh! could I tell them my grief
In its flow, that in roaming, we find no relief.

I love my country, and shall, until death
Shall cease my breath.

Now daughter dear I’ve done,
Seal this upon thy memory; until the morrow’s sun
Shall sink, to rise no more;
And if my years should score,
Remember this, though I tell no more.”

 

sources:

www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52473/the-natives-of-america

 

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