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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MEN OF COLOR.
Men of color, crushed and fallen, Rouse ye, rouse ye for the strife! Hark! your better genius calling, Strike for freedom! strike for life!
"Now's the day, and now's the hour," Looked for, hoped for, prayed for long, Prove your manhood; proved your power; Prove that God has made you strong.
Friends in thousands round you gather; Heaven has sent them in your need; And the Universal Father, Bids his faithful children speed.
Men of color! friends have risen Where you looked for foes before; Scourge and bloodhound, chain and prison, In the distance loom no more.
In our coming history's pages Make yourselves an honored place; From the blighting scoff of ages, Men of color, free your race!
"Now's the day, and now's the hour!" Men of color, mark it well; Let none say the envied power From your grasp unheeded fell.
- Frederick Douglass's rallying call "Men of Color, to Arms!" was widely reprinted. "This is our golden opportunity—let us accept it—and forever wipe out the dark reproaches unsparingly hurled against us by our enemies," he urged. "Win for ourselves the gratitude of our Country—and the best blessings of our posterity through all time" (Douglass' Monthly, March 1863, 801). The Anglo-African editors printed the address in their issue of March 7, 1863. Variations on the call "Men of color!" also thundered out from recruitment posters and featured prominently in headings on smaller broadsides.
- John Cole Hagen (1815?–?), author of Foot-prints of Truth; Or, Voice of Humanity (1853) and Ballads of the Revolution (1866). Hagen contributed a handful of pieces to the Christian Inquirer during the war. "The Freedman's Offering" and "The Second Coming of the Truth" (Christian Inquirer, March 14, 1863) suggest that he was a member of the Reverend Octavius Brooks Frothingham's reform-oriented congregation in New York.
- A line from the second stanza of Scottsh poet Robert Burns's "Scots Wha Hae": "Now's the day and now's the hour! / See the front o'battle lour! / See approach proud Edward's power— / Chains and slaverie!" (Robert Burns, Selected Poems, ed. Carol McGuirk [London: Penguin, 1993), ll. 22–24). Burns wrote "Scots Wha Hae" in the summer of 1793. The revolutionary lyrics (set to the older Scots tune "Hey tutti taitie") take the form of a rousing speech by Robert Bruce, who rallies his army to fight for freedom against England's King Edward II at Bannockburn: "Tyrants fall in every foe! / Liberty's in every blow!— / Let us do, or die!"
- Probably a reference to the notorious Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, given the lines that follow. Part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law provided for the enforcement and extension of the 1793 law, which "authorized slaveowners to cross state lines to recapture their property and bring it before any local magistrate or federal court to prove ownership," while denying the "fugitive" legal rights (James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The American Civil War [London: Penguin, 1991], 78). The Fugitive Slaw Law swept aside personal liberty laws enacted by free states and rewarded federal commissioners for ruling in favor of claimants seeking to return fugitives to slavery. It gave U.S. marshals the power to enlist citizens in the work of capture, and threatened to fine marshals and deputies who refused to assist slaveowners. It also criminalized those who aided fugitives—and thus struck at the network of conductors and stationmasters on the Underground Railroad. Although the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was not repealed until June 1864, its enforcement declined after January 1863 (Donald Yacovone, A Voice of Thunder: A Black Soldier's Civil War [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998], 130). By gesturing toward the new possibility of an interracial Northern alliance against the slave power ("friends have risen"), Hagen implicitly contrasts the Fugitive Slave Law with the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863; instead of protecting the interests of slaveholders, the federal government declared hundreds of thousands of slaves to be free, and opened the way for African American enlistment in the US military.