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The following poem by Brenda Cave-James was inspired by Howard Zinn’s  A People’s  History of the United States.

“Emanuel” was enslaved in early 1600’s.  Very fitting for the 1619 anniversary.


An African Renamed

To the African renamed

“Emanuel the Negro”

removed involuntarily

by cage

and crude contraption-

bound to sewage laden boards

in airless holds-

floated far, far and away.

Removed to this land

of Holy verse and piety-

self -proclaimed so worthy

of God’s blessings



Renamed Emanuel’s

flicker left of fortitude

bade him break for freedom

with white indentured friends-


Some things do not change.

The white ones suffered slaps of hand.

Removed, renamed

Emanuel the Negro

endured the leather whip-

ten x three laid open

stripes across his back.


Hot iron seared into his face

an “R” for “Runaway” …

or righteously indignant-

or for reminding early terrorists

how inhumane  they’ed be

to prove superiority.


Dear renamed Emanuel,

their clumsy locks-

their gnawing chains

about your neck

and waist

and legs-

in slumber

in labor

for no less than

one hundred x three

and sixty five days.-

to stifle further notion of

yourself as not enslaved-

’twas spirit rape.



Some things do not change.


You’d sigh.

You’d weep.

You’d shake your once

be-shackled head-

at “post traumatic slavery 

and reassigned inferior 


A sea of tethered untooled


Bullets sink the flesh-

replacing red hot singe.

Prison bars, the whip.

God’s manufactured blessing,


Somewhere near a forest

of countless millions

whispering leaves-

I shall plant

an unnamed tree.


Poem by  Brenda Cave-James, Binghamton, NY

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash




Find Anne C. Bailey's non-fiction book : The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History on Amazon.

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