Poem: “The Tears of a Slave” by Africus Published in the Freedom’s Journal (1828)

1 Posted by - March 13, 2021 - Black First, Black History, Poems

Freedom’s Journal was the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. Founded by Rev. Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men in New York City, it was published weekly starting with the March 16, 1827 issue.

According to the nineteenth-century African-American journalist, Irvine Garland Penn, Cornish and Russwurm’s objective with Freedom’s Journal was to oppose New York newspapers that attacked African Americans and encouraged slavery.

The Journal published biographies of prominent blacks, and listings of the births, deaths, and marriages in the African-American community in New York, helping celebrate their achievements. It circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.

The newspaper employed 14 to 44 subscription agents, such as David Walker, an abolitionist in Boston. Cornish left the paper and Russwurm began to promote colonization in Africa for American free blacks, as proposed by the American Colonization Society. His readers did not agree and abandoned the paper, which closed in 1829. Freedom’s Journal was superseded in 1829 by The Rights of All, published between 1829 and 1830 by Samuel Cornish, the former senior editor of the Journal.

‘The Tears of a Slave’
By Africus

Adieu, to my dear native shore,

To toss on the boisterous wave;

To enjoy my kindred no more,

But to weep—the tears of a SLAVE!

By the sons of freemen I’m borne,

To the land of the free and the brave;

From my wife and children I’m torn,

To weep—the sad tears of a SLAVE!

When, I think on mother and friends,

And the joy their countenance gave;

Ah! how my sad bosom it rends,

While weeping—the tears of a SLAVE!

Ah! now, I must labour for gold,

To pamper the pride of the knave;

Ah! now, I am shackled and sold

To weep—the sad tears of a SLAVE!

Keen sorrow so presses my heart,

That often I sigh for my grave;

While feeling the lash-cruel smart!

And weeping—the tears of a SLAVE!

Ye sons, of the free and the wise,

Your tender compassions I crave;

Alas! can your bosoms despise

The pitiful tears of a SLAVE!

Can a land of Christians so pure!

Let demons of slavery rave!

Can the angel of mercy endure,

The pitiless—tears of a SLAVE!

Just Heaven, to thee I appeal;

Hast thou not the power to save?

In mercy thy power reveal,

And dry—the sad tears of a SLAVE.


Voices Beyond Bondage




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