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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
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Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (11 March 1865)
J. R. Jr., "Equal Rights League Song" The Anglo-African (11 March 1865): [1]View Poem Image
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Come, Come, Come, From the plain, hill and dale, Every city, town and vale, From the North, from the South, From West to ocean's mouth! Come ye men of every age, Blooming youth and gray-haired sage, Women fair, children rare, Come our work to share,
Chorus—Rally, Rally in our might, Struggle on for equal right, Now's the day, this the way, Come, the call obey.
Come, Come, Come! Let it not be forgot, How oppressors fixed our lot, How they still at their will, Force the bitter pill.[3] In God's holy book we read; These my people shall be freed, Be the cry of every breath Liberty or death.
Chorus—Rally, Rally in our might, Struggle on for equal right, Now's the day, this the way These the words to say.
Come, Come, Come! Every heart, every hand, Join in one united band; No respite, till the fight, Brings us equal rights, Not with sword or bayonet, By appeals to justice set, On the foe till he show, Injustice no more.
Chorus—Rally, Rally, etc.,
Come, Come, Come! Don't delay, come away; Join the Leagues and with them stay, Never flinch not an inch, Till we gain the day. Then our children's children will, Love the Leagues and bless us still, Who did fight that they might Have their equal right.
Chorus—Rally, Rally in our might, Struggle on for equal right, Now's the day this the way, Come the call obey.


  1. The National Equal Rights League was formed at the National Convention of Colored Men, held in Syracuse, New York (October 4–7, 1864). Delegate members were urged to pursue their legal, political and educational rights by establishing state and local leagues. Abraham Galloway represented North Carolina at the convention and was elected as one of the league's sixteen vice presidents. Anglo-African editor Robert Hamilton attended the convention and published full reports of the proceedings in the newspaper, which he offered as the official organ of the convention. Hamilton had developed ties with Galloway and the region during his 1863–64 tour of the South. Hamilton left New York on September 17, 1863, and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, after spending two months in the region of Washington, DC. Between mid-November 1863 and late January 1864, he visited civilian communities and military camps in Virginia and North Carolina, and sent regular letters back to the Anglo-African.Go back
  2. John Randolph, Jr. (1827–1890?). Randolph was born into slavery near Washington, North Carolina; freedom arrived with the Union Army (David S. Cecelski, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves' Civil War [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012], 74, 245 n46). Sidney Andrews described him as "a carpenter by trade and teacher by profession, radical in desire, but conservative in action, longing for much, but content to make haste slowly" (Andrews, The South since the War: As Shown by Fourteen Weeks of Travel and Observation in Georgia and the Carolinas [Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866], 125). He worked closely with Abraham Galloway and other black activists in the region.
    One of New Bern's political leaders, Randolph was elected secretary of the State Equal Rights League in 1865 (Minutes of the Freedmen's Convention, Held in the City of Raleigh [Raleigh, NC: Standard Book and Job Office, 1866], 20). North Carolina's state chapter was founded in November 1864; before the end of the year, local auxiliaries had formed in several towns, and held their first gathering as the State League (Cecelski, 158–59). Randolph may have used his "Equal Rights League Song" to promote League membership and the formation of new chapters in his state. Printed in the Anglo-African, however, the "Song" addressed a national audience.
    In October 1866, circumstances prevented Randolph from attending the convention—and the league's first annual meeting—but he wrote a letter urging delegates to discuss the education, political rights and "laboring interests" of "our people" (20). He advised his associates to "show yourselves 'as harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents,' to the end that we all may be benefitted, and peace and good-will prevail" (20).
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  3. Throughout the South, white conservatives determined to preserve the antebellum social order by force and state law. Randolph's "Song" appeared in the Anglo-African at a relatively hopeful moment in the wartime struggle for equal rights. At the end of August 1865, Randolph participated in a mass meeting of black activists from the New Bern region, led by Abraham Galloway; here they outlined a postwar agenda which emphasized education and tackled "the violent, undemocratic nature of the postwar society that had begun to emerge with Presidential Reconstruction" (Cecelski, 180). Together with Galloway and George W. Price, Jr., Randolph then published a call for a freedpeople's convention in September, 1865: "'Rally, old men … Rally, young men'" (quoted by Cecelski, 181). By the time delegates gathered for this convention, "[e]ven conditions in New Bern had deteriorated into a kind of guerrilla war between liberated slaves and their former masters" (Cecelski, 182).Go back