Liberation in Verse

We are a little out of order, here is the deep conversation that Jonathan had with Cheryl Harris. We have already had the other parts of the conversation that they had, but for some reason, Jonathan was not happy with the conversation the first time and in an act of rage delated it. Cheryl, in a great act of grace agreed to meet again to discuss these two great poems. Below are the two poems that Jonathan and Cheryl discussed:


 “On Being Brought from Africa to America”

by Phyllis Wheatley (c.1773-1784)


‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew,

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic die,”

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refin’d and join the angelic train.



by Pauli Murray (1910-1985)


I sing of a new American

Separate from all others,

Yet enlarged and diminished by all others.

I am the child of kings and serfs, freemen and slaves,

Having neither superiors nor inferiors,

Progeny of all colors, all cultures, all systems, all beliefs.

I have been enslaved, yet my spirit is unbound.

I have been cast aside, but I sparkle in the darkness.

I have ben slain but live on in the river of history.

I seek no conquest, no wealth, no power, no revenge:

I seek only discovery

Of the illimitable heights and depths of my own being.


These poems speak to many different experiences on a broad and particular level and are prophetic in their own was. As Cheryl said, poetry can be prophetic; it can speak to the struggles as well as the hopes that many struggle with. Yes, these poems come out of an African-American experience and speak to a particularity of that experience, but they also speak to the experience of life that many have. Just because they are written by African-American women does not mean that someone like Jonathan cannot find some wisdom and connection. And if he can find something meaningful for his experience, then there is hope for humanity.


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