Age: 15, Grade: 10
School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educators: Derek Kulnis, Kasumi Parker
Songs of Truth (Found Poem from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass)
Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy;
The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart.
Tones loud, long and deep
Songs of service
Yes, sir; no, sir; cutting and slashing
Fully up to the point of endurance.
Toil-worn and whip-scarred,
Behave well or behave ill,
A large hickory stick and a heavy cowskin.
Songs of cruelty
They spoke but to command,
Commanded but to be obeyed.
No words, no tears, no prayers;
The louder we screamed,
The harder they whipped.
Songs of pain
The bloody lash, mangled bodies
Confined in bands of iron
“He that knoweth his master’s will
And doeth it not
Shall be beaten with many stripes.”
Songs of grief
Children and grandchildren
Divided like so many sheep
Illness, death, burial:
Songs of freedom
A prayer to God for deliverance from chains,
A hope for resurrection,
A loosening from moorings,
A silver trump, crying for a swift-winged angel.
The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart;
And he is relieved by them as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.