The And The African Chief By Sarah Wentworth Morton

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Over the course of about our last month in class we’ve been reading into slavery themed poems pretty deeply. We’ve seen a number of arguments about the subject and in particular I think Phillip Freneau’s “To Sir Toby” and “The African Chief” by Sarah Wentworth Morton make possibly the strongest arguments out of the bunch. One of these emphasizes the idea that plantation work was literally hell. While the other introduces the idea that an African Chief, protecting his people was just as much a freedom fighter as other strong and popular figures. Starting with Phillip Freneau’s “To Sir Toby” this poem, full to the brim with descriptive language paints a picture of hell on a plantation. Whilst Toby’s plantation didn’t have hellfire or burning lakes, there were as Freneau would describe whips that excite perpetual fear. And the “mingled howls” that tortured the ears of the slave. And slaves were left to get sick as well as having to live and work with “Snakes, scorpions, despots, lizards and centipedes.” It’s interesting that despots are mentioned here. It’s likely in reference to the tyrannical white overseers who would whip and supervise the slaves, Torturing them as they worked. On top of that slaves were left unfed, forced to work under a blazing sun and worst of all; they were sold into this service by their own brothers. I inclined to believe when Freneau compares this plantation to hell that he definitely isn’t far off. Every line just brings up a new,

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