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Scholarly Editing

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, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (21 January 1865)
Frances E. W. Harper, "The Mother's Blessing" The Anglo-African (21 January 1865): [2]View Poem Image
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Oh! my heart had grown so weary, With its many cares opprest; All my soul's high aspirations, Languished in a prayer for rest.
I was like a lonely stranger, Pining in a distant land; Bearing on his lips a language, None around him understand.
Longing for a close communion, With some kindred mind and heart; But whose language is a jargon, Past his skill and past his art.
God in mercy looked upon me, Saw my fainting, pain and strife; Sent to me a blest evangel, Through the gates of light and life.
Then my desert leafed and blossomed, Beauty decked its deepest wild; Hope, and joy, peace and blessing Met me in my firstborn child.
When the tiny hands so feeble, Brought me smiles and joyful tears; Lifted from my life the shadows, That had gathered there for years.
God! I thank thee for the blessing, That at last has crowned my life; Soothed its weary lonely anguish, Stayed its fainting, calmed its strife.
Gracious Parent! shield and shelter In thine arms my darling child, Till she treads the streets of jasper, Spotless, pure and undefiled.


  1. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911), activist, orator, and writer. Born Frances Ellen Watkins in Baltimore, Maryland, Harper was raised by her aunt and schoolmaster uncle after the death of her parents. She received a rigorous education at the Reverend William Watkins's Academy for Negro Youth and took part in antislavery activities with his family. In her midtwenties, she taught in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She pledged herself to the antislavery movement in response to the death of a free black man whom Maryland authorities had arrested and sent into slavery for the crime of entering the state. In 1854, she began to lecture for the Maine Anti-Slavery Society. Her Poems of Miscellaneous Subjects appeared in the same year (the first of ten volumes of poetry published between 1854 and 1901). In November 1859 she championed militant abolitionist John Brown as "the hero of the nineteenth century" (William Still, The Underground Rail Road [Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1872], 762).
    Harper continued to lecture with great success until late 1860, when she married Fenton Harper, a widower with three children. The family moved to a farm in Grove City, Ohio, where Harper managed their domestic life and wrote for the antislavery press. The Christian Recorder of September 27, 1862, printed her criticisms of Lincoln in late September 1862: "The President's dabbling with Colonization just now, suggests to my mind the idea of a man almost dying with a loathsome cancer, and busying himself about having his hair trimmed according to the latest fashion." The Emancipation Proclamation raised her hopes, and she returned to the platform to speak on "the President's Proclamation." "I know that all is not accomplished," she told William Still, "but we may rejoice in what has been already wrought,—the wondrous change in so short a time" (766). Her poems appeared in the Anglo-African, the Free Nation, and other newspapers. As "a form of public speech addressed to concrete, empirically identifiable others" (Paula Bernat Bennett, Poets in the Public Sphere: The Emancipatory Project of American Women's Poetry, 1800—1900 [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003], 5), these pieces represent a continuation of her mission as a lecturer. The newspaper served as another platform.
    Fenton Harper's death precipitated a financial crisis in May 1864: the contents of the family home were seized by creditors. Harper returned to the lecture circuit and "turned her attention to Reconstruction, temperance, education, moral reform, and women's rights" (Shirley Wilson Logan, 'We Are Coming': The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women [Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999], 48). She and Edmonia Highgate were the only women to address the National Convention of Colored Men in the fall of 1864. After the war, she lectured throughout the South. Her first serialized novel, Minnie's Sacrifice, appeared in 1869. After the publication of Iola Leroy; or, Shadows Uplifted (1892), she helped found the National Association of Colored Women (1896).
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