Quick post this week, my poetry friends.
One of my first reads of the new year was David F. Walker’s fantastic graphic biography, The Life of Frederick Douglass, illustrated by Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise (2019). (Publisher info here.)
I’d taken this book out of the library. As soon as I returned it, I went out and got a copy for my own shelves.
Among many aspects of this book that appealed to me were the pages devoted to historical context. These:
- helped me understand the progression of slavery in the United States from 1619 to the Civil War,
- illuminated how African slaves initially had rights similar to indentured servants but were increasingly disenfranchised by laws rooted in greed and racism,
- and made clear that slavery was *the* institution at the center of the Civil War.
Frederick Douglass did write poems, but I was unable to find them within the public domain.
Perhaps the most famous poem about Douglass is by poet Robert Hayden. (Read more about Hayden at the Poetry Foundation.)
By Robert Hayden
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro …
And another powerful reading, by 2013 Poetry Out Loud winner Shawntay A. Henry.