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Frances E.W. Harper and James Whitfield's Influences on the Anti-Slavery Movement

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Frances E.W. Harper and James Whitfield are two of the most influential anti-slavery poets of all time. Both individuals use poetry as a form of resistance and as a way to express themselves during a time of great racial tension. Their poems reach out to many different audiences, shedding light on racial injustices that were present in America. Harper’s and Whitfield’s poetry, like many other works that were written during this time, help us to better comprehend the effects of slavery on African Americans. Although Frances E.W. Harper (1825-1911) lived in the enslaved state of Maryland, she was a free individual as a result of her parents’ social status. Harpers’ freedom allowed her to embark upon many opportunities that other blacks…show more content…
Whitfield became known at the age of sixteen for his works on African American colonization. He later moved to New York where he picked up the trade of barbering and used this trade as a source of income but still continued to write. He began to publish work in various African American newspapers, one of which was Frederick Douglass’ North Star. He teamed up with other black people who wanted to start their own society and together they encouraged African Americans to colonize else where. Whitfield lectured at several men’s conferences and even took a trip to Central America in hopes of finding a place to establish an African American community. Whitfield’s articles and poetry reflected his militant attitude and were often written with a bitter hostility towards the oppression of black people in America. A perfect example of Whitfield’s resentful attitude towards slavery is one of his most famous poems “America.” One of the greatest examples of Harper’s works is “The Slave Mother.” The poem gives the reader a first hand experience of the devastating effects of slavery on the enslaved mothers. According to Janet Gray, “Harper aims to transform the listening subject not only by arousing sympathy but also by striking terror”(76). Harper does a great job of accomplishing this task. Throughout the poem she uses words and phrases that evoke powerful images in the readers’ mind and moves them emotionally. For example, “They tear him from her
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