200 years on

entry picture

Hello folks.

Thought I would respond to the challeneg of writing a poem to mark the end of the 200 year commemoration since the abolition of the slave trade. Also thought it might be interesting to write it from the perspective of a freed slave living in 1806. The slave is addressing an audience of cotton workers and talking about his expeirnece. He's also talking about how he managed to survive and the importance of his people. He also thinks about what things might be like in the future. See first two versus.



My Hands Were Made Strong (2008)
….The mill workers address…..

Yes, my hands were made strong, but not by the almighty
I strengthened them; they were strengthened with my people
And I wonder talking to you now, what will become of my people?
Where will they live in the future? Will what I have had to endure help them?

Will the tools I have used to survive help them to survive?
And what of my tools? I employed them well.
I developed a great determination and sense of justice
Surely it will help my people, nay all people, when I am gone.

Have you ever missed your family? Once at play, netted, then marching
Back bent with heavy yoked arms, split toes and lips with merciless thurst
Deaths’ ever present smell mixed with salt and the sound of lapping water.
Then suddenly white flapping material, puffed up like clouds.

I knew that this monstrous vessel was hell, for three months is was,
As so many of my people died, all different, but now dead
I survived accompanied by relentless horror and persistent pain
Despite the sharks my urge to jump was strong, but I thought of my people.

I was sold and inspected three times, three times denied my freedom
And why? Because I am black and to satisfy a need for sugar
To make palatable their bitter drinks. And to feed their greed.
I powered Manchester, launching her to become the worlds’ first industrial city.

I am the shot in the arm for the industrial revolution.
I suffered as you now suffer, but worse! You have your freedom,
Your life and your families. But you too are only small cogs in a global wheel.
You can be free from your dark satanic mills as I from cane and cotton.

See how proud we are; see how we employ all our waking moments,
Planning to be free. See how we crave a future even though our children are sold.
See how we behave, watch us put our culture to good use, we are subtlety.
See how we trick them into thinking that we are something else.

And have we not been ingenious? Our stops on the Underground Railroad,
Brother Douglass’s Northern Star bookshop, our songs and messages,
Sojourners powerful defiant shoulders, upon which others will take their stand
My people will reverberate throughout history, and so can yours mark me.

We shall not be moved, deep in my heart I do believe
We stood up on the Amistat, we made plantations unworkable,
As Nanny and Sam came down from the mountains to help.
We poisoned “masters” animals and killed whatever else needed to die.

This was our strength, and they did not know our spirit was unbreakable
But even though we fight together, I worry. It’s 1806 and change is going to come.
But I still worry. Lay down your looms good people of Manchester, think of the future
And in 200 years let them speak of what we have achieved today

I love Poland ►



Fri 28th Aug 2009 17:50

Good write, but slavery goes onto today and very little is written about it, it is ignored by most, think, Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Sudan, and thats just the start, think India, Uzbekistan.
Forgotten , think slavery in the Gulf States, KSA, whoaaaaaaa cant talk about that folks.

steve mellor

Thu 9th Jul 2009 08:32

I just realised that last night's comment may have sounded like criticism, which it most certainly was not.
I meant that the poems of Langston Hughes give a fantastic perspective of lives of black people in the USA in the early 20th Century

steve mellor

Wed 8th Jul 2009 20:56

Hello Lenford
Have you read Langston Hughes? If not, his writing is pretty much really encouraged me to write, poor as my contributions may be.
When I think I have something half-decent, I pick up an anthology of L.H. poems and realise how far I have to go.

Profile image

Zuzanna Musial

Wed 30th Jan 2008 03:08

Hi Lenford--It is good to hear from you..Also about the history of slavery. It brings kind of a bitter taste to me.My feeling are soft in my heart of other people sufferings. Still I am sensitive about such subject. I do believe that Planet Earth has enough of Goods to supply each group of people, it does not matter of the race or the Nationalities.I am against slavery always will. So the book you referring to is the "BELOVED"- I will check this book. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge about this subject....Zuzanna

Profile image

Lenford White

Tue 29th Jan 2008 22:22

PS, I saw Roots when I was at school in 1975 - it had a big impact over here - it was a start too. Aley Hayley's book was overly dramatised, and even in 1975 I could not help thinking that it made slavery seem far more toerable for African than it actually was. The book is yet to be written on this subject...I know how I would tell it...Tony Morrisson's book is hearer the mark - having as her starting point a mother seperated from her child, and then benig haunted by the child's ghost....can't remember what it was called. Let me check on the net.................how could I have forgotten, it was called Beloved.

Profile image

Lenford White

Tue 29th Jan 2008 22:16

Thanks for the comments. Yes, I am from the south - south Liverpool - and area called Toxteth. You may know of it, made infamous due to the "riots" in 1981 - we called them "uprisings" - it may sound grand, but they were defiance in the face of exclusion, racism and discrimination. Liverpool, after all was the Capital of the Slave Trade. My and a group of dedicated black observers wrote a book on this in 1997 called "Slavery: An Introduction to The African Holocaust".

I will submit the poem, would like to get up and tell it like it was and get people thinking about how our past impacts on us today

Profile image

Zuzanna Musial

Fri 25th Jan 2008 05:23

Great take on the subject!

"My Hands Were Made Strong"

We do have modern type of slavery in every corner of the planet! Often one does not know that has been treated differently then others, why because it is under the table type of slavery.
It is visible over here to- I think it is very sad to know that slavery still exists. It can be compared to discrimination because of the country of origin or the colour of the skin. there are many things that fall into this category. It reminds of "ROOTS"- A movie I have seen many times and was always sorry for those young black African people that were captured and used as slaves for a free labour. This is endless subject for me.

The poem you wrote has depth and a lot of educational base. It teaches those who do not know much about what has happened at the beginning how the slavery started. Thank you for the great writes...Zuzanna

Profile image

clarissa mckone

Fri 25th Jan 2008 01:22

Oh and I forgot one new type of slavery, very popular all areound america. Its the illegal mexicans, that are in a strange way the new slaves, they havent a clue! They get paid dirt wages. But then they have perks like free medical/dental, education, no taxes, free houseing and food.They can get loans for homes and cars and open bank accounts, with little to know proof of wages or who they are. I guess it could be said to be a modern type of slavery, with a twist.

Profile image

clarissa mckone

Fri 25th Jan 2008 00:25

HI Lenford, nice poem.Are your from the South? I grew up hearing storys from family about slavery. Slavery is alive and doing well still today. The slave trade has been found in London, and Isreal, and Im sure other places as well. They now sell females of all ages, and I would guess boys to a point.The jobs are probably more degrading in this day and age as they are all sex slaves, working 12 hours or more a day, and their owner takes 80-90 % of the money made. Its interesting that the UN knows about this and the respective governments know, but never do anything to stop the slave trade. thanks

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message