The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2013, Volume 34
"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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GOD AND OUR RACE.
A Battle-Song for the Colored Soldiers.
Brothers!—arise and arm; Haste at the drum's alarm The foe to face: Raise Freedom's banner high, Though we go forth to die, Be this our battle-cry: "God and our Race!"
What, though we wounded lie, What, though we fall and die In the fierce strife! We fight our Race to free, To let the nations see, That we love Liberty Far more than life!
We know our cause is just; In God we place our trust, And in His might; He will assistance lend. He will our defend, And to the glorious end Help us to fight.
Each crushed and bleeding slave, Each martyred hero's grave, Each trampled right— Each outraged woman's cry, Each childless mother's sigh, Calls upon you and I Bravely to fight.
They shall not call in vain, We must the victory gain In such a fight; Though now our foes be strong, They shall not triumph long. God never aids the Wrong Against the Right!
Then, Brothers, up and arm! Haste at the drum's alarm The foe to face! Raise Freedom's banner high: Though we go forth to die, Be this our battle-cry: "God and our Race!"
- South Carolina native Eliza Jane Gordon (1836?–1901?), married to Charles B. Gordon, son of William S. Gordon. The 1860 census lists Eliza, Charles, and William as part of the same household in Philadelphia's twelfth ward. William, a wealthy barber by 1860, helped found the "Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons" in 1833 ("To the Public," Liberator, March 23, 1833, ). Charles was also a barber; by 1870 he and Eliza kept their own house and had three young children, Charles, Caroline, and Harriet (aged six, four, and two). Eliza's death certificate describes her as a widowed dressmaker.
- At this moment, the Northern advance of General Lee's Confederate army caused consternation in Pennsylvania. Parker T. Smith, editor of the Anglo-African's "Philadelphia Department," reported that "imminent peril" had brought city business to a standstill; stores were closed early or converted into recruiting offices. "The drum and fife could be heard in many parts of the city, and the heavy tread of men hurrying to and fro gave our streets a very martial appearance" (Anglo-African, July 11, 1863, ).Smith went on to describe the response of Philadelphia's African American communities. Meetings were held to discuss both the provision of relief for Pennsylvanian refugees and the propriety of enlistment for "State defense." A meeting at Bethel Church, held on June 29, was "well attended." On June 30, the meeting reconvened and passed the resolution "That inasmuch as we solemnly believe that God has no attributes that can take part with the slaveholder in this rebellion, we hold it to be our highest religious duty to sustain our Government in the prosecution of this war so far as it is conducted for the purpose of equal rights, liberty, equality and fraternity."Instead of printing "God and Our Race" in one of the usual slots for poetry on page 1 or page 4, the Anglo-African editor or compositor placed Gordon's poem on page 2, with Smith's account and an editorial on "The War." In this piece, one of the Hamilton brothers applauded the noble motives of African American volunteers (Anglo-African, July 11, 1863, ), including a company of Philadelphians who rushed to Harrisburg in response to Lee's threat: "We fight for God, liberty and country, not money." Using terms akin to those in Gordon's poem, the editor at once reaffirmed the religious and political significance of African American military service and responded to an emerging debate about unequal pay. In early June 1863, the War Department broke its pledge to pay African American soldiers at the same rate as white troops; instead of thirteen dollars per month basic pay, they would receive only ten dollars minus three dollars for clothing (a rate dug out of the Militia Act of 1862). The placement of the poem in the Anglo-African affiliated "God and Our Race" with debates about local and national enlistment. The Anglo-African presented Eliza Gordon's poem as a patriotic Philadelphian response to the local threat of Confederate invasion—and as evidence of continued passionate support for African American enlistment on a national scale.