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
|page 1||page 2||page 3||page 4|
Full size in new window
TO THE FIRST COLORED REGIMENT OF MICHIGAN.
Two years gone by, then we were told We do not want your aid; Our fighting all we mean to do, And dying, too, 'twas said. Truth now maintains her ancient strife With Slavery, loud and long, In deadly grasp they struggle on, 'Till Right shall conquer Wrong.
Chorus—Oh, it will be joyful, joyful, joyful, Oh, it will be joyful, when slavery is no more! When slavery is no more, when slavery is no more, Oh, then we'll sing, an offering bring, When Slavery is no more.
The Wolverines of Michigan, The colored First, though new, Will boldly march upon the plain, And strike for Freedom, too. With Milliken's, with Hudson and Fort Wagner now in view, We'll bleed and die for Liberty, As Freemen only do. Chorus—Oh, that will be joyful, etc.
To make our country what it should Have always been of right, A land of justice, equal laws, And not of force and might; A place where not a fettered slave Shall ever clank his chains, But where, without regard to caste, Freedom and Truth shall reign. Chorus—Oh, it will be joyful, etc.
What, then, shall our status be When victory shall be won— When, marked and scarred, with tattered flag, We from the battle come? We care not what we then shall be, But if we're true and brave, Be what we will, with arms in hand, Not one shall be a slave. Chorus—Oh, it will be joyful, etc.
We fight for God and Liberty, For Justice, Truth and Right, The freedom of the helpless slave, Against the tyrant's might. We do not doubt which will succeed In such a cause as this; The bullets of a freeman's arm Were never known to miss. Chorus—Oh, it will be joyful, etc.
- Benjamin Clark, Senior (1801–1864), born in Maryland. He described himself as the son "of parents, on the one side, who, like many others, had the good fortune to become emancipated after more than thirty years of unrequited toil" (B. Clark, Sen., The Past, Present and Future in Poetry and Prose [Toronto: Adam, Stevenson and Co., 1867], 7). At some point before 1831, Clark and his wife, Caroline, moved north to Pennsylvania with their two sons. Census records for 1850 place the Clark family in York, Pennsylvania. Benjamin and Caroline lived with ten children aged one through twenty-four. Their eldest boys had established trades—one a tailor, another a shoemaker. Clark himself was a successful "blue dyer," with real estate worth $1,000. He was troubled by his lungs, perhaps as a result of a life in dye works. In 1861 he moved to Detroit City, Michigan, to recover his health. He died there on February 10, 1864; an Anglo-African obituary of March 12, 1864, describes him as a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a temperance advocate.Throughout his life, Clark wrote occasional verse on political, religious, and domestic subjects. Several pieces attributed to "B. Clark, SEN" appeared in Frederick Douglass' Paper and the Weekly Anglo-African. These and other poems were published in a collection of his writing, The Past, Present and Future in Prose and Poetry (1867). "Be Joyful!," one of Clark's last poems, is the final piece in the book. Before he died, he outlined his aims and assumed a posture of humility in introductory paragraphs headed "Autobiography": "an earnest desire to assist in swelling the tide of righteous indignation against a system of oppression and wrong inflicted upon a helpless and inoffensive portion of his brethren, is his only apology for appearing before the public" (8).
- African American troops distinguished themselves in combat at Milliken's Bend (June 7, 1863), Port Hudson (May 27, 1863), and Fort Wagner (July 18, 1863). Northern newspapers with antislavery sympathies reported the soldiers' feats, and thus challenged widespread contemporary prejudice against African American enlistment. The bravery of these regiments helped to turn the tide of Northern public opinion in favor of African American military service and the abolition of slavery.
- Henry Barns (1815–?), owner and editor of the Detroit Tribune and Daily Advertiser. Barns was instrumental in the formation of Michigan's First African American regiment. After making numerous appeals, he received authorization to raise a black regiment on August 12, 1863. He conducted a vigorous recruitment campaign, in spite of Copperhead opposition. By the end of March 1864, the regiment was full and ready to leave Camp Ward. Orders were received on March 25; the regiment left three days later, on March 28, with Barns as its colonel (a post he gave up to a man better qualified some days later). Before its departure, the regiment "halted on Jefferson avenue to give friends and relatives an opportunity to bid the brave boys good-bye" (Advertiser, March 28, 1864). Clark may well have written "Be Joyful!" in response to the regiment's preparations for departure—which he may have witnessed firsthand or read about in the columns of Detroit papers like the Tribune and Advertiser. Barns's name does not appear in the later book version of the poem.
- A poisonous snake, "Copperhead" became the popular (Republican) name for so-called Peace Democrats, who opposed the administration's war policies and promoted peace with the South. Copperheads were widely associated with disloyalty and treachery on the home front.