Bible Defense of Slavery

By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper 1825–1911
Take sackcloth of the darkest dye,
   And shroud the pulpits round!
Servants of Him that cannot lie,
   Sit mourning on the ground.

Let holy horror blanch each cheek,
   Pale every brow with fears;
And rocks and stones, if ye could speak,
   Ye well might melt to tears!

Let sorrow breathe in every tone,
   In every strain ye raise;
Insult not God’s majestic throne
   With th’ mockery of praise.

A “reverend” man, whose light should be
   The guide of age and youth,
Brings to the shrine of Slavery
   The sacrifice of truth!

For the direst wrong by man imposed,
   Since Sodom’s fearful cry,
The word of life has been unclos’d,
   To give your God the lie.

Oh! When ye pray for heathen lands,
   And plead for their dark shores,
Remember Slavery’s cruel hands
   Make heathens at your doors!

Source: American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (The Library of America, 1993)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Frances Ellen Watkins Harper 1825–1911

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Religion, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Christianity, Race & Ethnicity

 Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Biography

Born in Baltimore, poet, fiction writer, journalist, and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was the only child of free African American parents. She was raised by her aunt and uncle after her mother died when Frances was three years old. She attended the Academy for Negro Youth, a school run by her uncle, until the age of 13, and then found domestic work in a Quaker household, where she had access to a wide range of . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Christianity, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.