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Works of James M. Whitfield

America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

Edited by Robert S. Levine and Ivy G. Wilson

Publication Year: 2011

Levine and Wilson compile and annotate Whitfield's extant writings, both poetry and prose, and they offer significant new biographical information in a fulsome introduction to the volume. This book restores Whitfield to his rightful place in the arts and politics of his day. Whitfield's essays, which are little known to present-day scholars, situate him in relation to Douglass, Martin Delany, Frances Harper, and George Boyer Vashon, among others, and they shed much light on his poetry. This book also contributes to the on- going rethinking of African American writing in this period, underscoring the importance of poetry and periodical culture to black writing as well as the importance of the debate on emigration.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

We are pleased to acknowledge the generosity and support of a number of individuals and institutions. We did the bulk of our research and document collecting at the Library of Congress, and we are grateful for the assistance of its expert staff...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-28

In his own time, James Monroe Whitfield (1822–71) was a celebrated African American poet and leader. He was the friend of Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany, and his poetry...

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A Note on the Texts

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pp. 29-30

Most of the poems, essays, and letters in this edition have not been republished since their first appearance in the mid-nineteenth century. Whitfield published his work...

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PART I. America

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pp. 31-34

In 1853, the James S. Leavitt Company, a relatively small press in Buffalo known for its Universalist and Unitarian publications,¹ brought out Whitfield’s first and only collection...

CONTENTS

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pp. 37-38

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 39-40

“ANOTHER book of poetry,” exclaims the reader; “and that, too, by one of the proscribed race, whose lot has been ignorance and servitude.” It is even so: and this little volume is presented to the public in the full confidence that it will be read...

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AMERICA

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pp. 41-45

AMERICA, it is to thee, Thou boasted land of liberty,— It is to thee I raise my song, Thou land of blood, and crime, and wrong...

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CHRISTMAS HYMN

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pp. 46-47

HAIL, glorious morn! whose radiant beams, Looked down on Christ’s nativity, For every year thy presence...

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LINES ON THE DEATH OFJOHN QUINCY ADAMS

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pp. 47-48

THE great, the good, the just, the true, Has yielded up his latest breath; The noblest man our country knew, Bows to the ghastly monster...

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TO CINQUE

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p. 49-49

ALL hail! thou truly noble chief, Who scorned to live a cowering slave; Thy name shall stand on history’s leaf, Amid the mighty and the brave...

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NEW YEAR’S HYMN

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p. 50-50

ANOTHER year, another year, Unfolds its page of hope and fear! Where, at its close, shall we appear Who now are congregated...

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TO A. H.

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pp. 51-54

I JUST had turned the classic page, With ancient lore and wisdom fraught, Which many a hoary-headed sage Had stamped with never-dying...

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LOVE

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pp. 54-55

IN the bright dreams of early youth, I strung my lyre, and waked a strain, In praise of friendship, love and truth, Without a thought of care or pain...

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HOW LONG

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pp. 56-63

HOW long, oh gracious God! how long Shall power lord it over right? The feeble, trampled by the strong...

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THE ARCH APOSTATE

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pp. 64-69

“Since he miscalled the morning star, Nor man, nor fiend hath fallen so far.”—Byron³⁴ WHEN gathered in the courts above, Before Jehovah’s burning throne, Archangels own his boundless love...

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THE MISANTHROPIST42

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pp. 70-74

IN vain thou bid’st me strike the lyre, And sing a song of mirth and glee, Or, kindling with poetic fire, Attempt some higher minstrelsy...

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A HYMN

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pp. 75-76

WRITTEN FOR THE DEDICATION OF THE VINE STREET METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, BUFFALO43

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YES! STRIKE AGAIN THATSOUNDING STRING 44

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pp. 77-78

YES! strike again that sounding string, And let the wildest numbers roll; Thy song of fiercest passion sing— It breathes responsive to my soul!...

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TO ———

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pp. 78-79

APPROACHING night her mantle flings O’er plain and valley, rock and glen, When borne away on fancy’s wings, Imagination guides my pen...

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PRAYER OF THE OPPRESSED

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pp. 80-81

OH great Jehovah! God of love, Thou monarch of the earth and sky, Canst thou from thy great throne above Look down with an unpitying eye?—...

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TO S. A. T.

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pp. 81-82

AS with thy Album50 in my hand, Upon this picture late I gazed, With tuneful harp held in its hand, And eyes of joy to Heaven upraised, As if it inspiration sought...

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DELUSIVE HOPE51

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pp. 82-83

IN the bright days of early youth, Hope told a fond, delusive tale Of lasting friendship, holy truth, And steadfast love which ne’er should fail...

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TO M. E. A.

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pp. 83-84

OH! Had I that poetic lore Bestowed upon the favored few, To ope’ Dame Nature’s bounteous store, And hold her treasures up to view, To climb Parnassus’ lofty...

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A HYMN

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pp. 85-86

WRITTEN FOR THE DEDICATION OF THE MICHIGAN STREET BAPTIST CHURCH, BUFFALO56 ALMIGHTY God! in this thy house, For the first time thy people stand, To pay to thee their humble vows...

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SELF-RELIANCE57

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pp. 87-89

I LOVE the man whose lofty mind On God and its own strength relies; Who seeks the welfare of his kind, And dare be honest though he dies; Who cares not for the world’s applause...

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ODE FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY

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pp. 89-90

ANOTHER year has passed away, And brings again the glorious day When Freedom from her slumber woke, And broke the British tyrant’s yoke— Unfurled her standard to the air...

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MIDNIGHT MUSINGS

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pp. 90-92

THE gloomy night has cast a shroud Upon the dwelling-place of men; Hushed are the voices of the crowd, And silence reigns o’er hill and glen. My winged fancy takes its flight...

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ODE TO MUSIC60

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pp. 92-94

THERE’S music wheresoe’er we roam— ’T is heard in ocean’s crested foam, And in the billows’ deafening roar, Which madly burst upon the shore: They sing of Heaven’s eternal Lord...

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STANZAS FOR THE FIRST OF AUGUST62

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pp. 95-96

FROM bright West Indies’ sunny seas, Comes, borne upon the balmy breeze, The joyous shout, the gladsome tone, Long in those bloody isles unknown; Bearing across the heaving wave...

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THE NORTH STAR63

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pp. 96-98

STAR of the north! whose steadfast ray Pierces the sable pall of night, Forever pointing out the way That leads to freedom’s hallowed light: The fugitive lifts up his eye To where thy rays illume the sky...

PART II. Black Nationalism and Emigration

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pp. 99-108

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EXTRACTS FROM AN EULOGY DELIVEREDBEFORE THE BUFFALO LIBRARY ASSOCIATIONUPON THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THELATE THOMAS HARRIS, BY J. M. WHITFIELD

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pp. 109-113

The document, of which the following extracts are but parts, came to hand in such a mangled state, from the manner it which it was mailed, as to render it impossible for us to publish it entire. We therefore take such parts as bear upon the main object, and which escaped...

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LETTER TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS,30 AUGUST 1849

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pp. 114-115

MR. EDITOR:— I was highly pleased to see in the North Star of the 10th, your plan for a National League.⁷ The necessity of such an organization, to draw out and embody the moral and intellectual power of the colored people of this country, is too obvious...

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ARGUMENTS, PRO AND CON, ON THE CALLFOR A NATIONAL EMIGRATION CONVENTION

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pp. 115-168

[The complete text that follows presents a debate on black emigration between Frederick Douglass and William Watkins, on one side, and James Whitfield, on the other, much of which took place...

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FROM THE VISION

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pp. 169-187

OH! Superstition! sovereign dame, We praise and bless thy glorious name, Who from thy all prolific womb, Us, thy true children, did’st bring forth, To spread a dark and fearful gloom...

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MORNING SONG

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pp. 187-188

AWAKE! ’tis morn, The brilliant dawn Has ushered in the day; The Queen of night Has paled her light, The morning star its ray...

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REPORT ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PERIODICAL,TO BE THE ORGAN OF THE BLACK AND COLOREDRACE ON THE AMERICAN CONTINENT

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pp. 189-193

Your Committee, to whom was referred the duty of enquiring into the expediency of establishing a literary periodical, which should at the same time be the organ of the National Board of Commissioners, would respectfully submit, that they have investigated the subject as thoroughly as the limited time allowed them would permit...

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PROSPECTUS OF THE AFRIC- AMERICANQUARTERLY REPOSITORY

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pp. 194-198

THE NATIONAL EMIGRATION CONVENTION OF THE COLORED PEOPLE OF NORTH AMERICA, after mature and deliberate consideration, at two successive sessions, held at Cleveland Ohio, August, 1854, and again in August...

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LINES

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pp. 199-200

ADDRESSED TO MR. AND MRS. J. T. HOLLY, ON THE DEATH OF THEIR TWO INFANT DAUGHTERS78 “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”79 ’Tis true the favored ones of Heaven...

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LETTER TO FRANK P. BLAIR, JR., 1 FEBRUARY 1858

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pp. 201-203

DEAR SIR: Having read a portion of your late speech in Congress in favor of colonizing free blacks in Central or South America,81 I have taken the liberty of addressing you, feeling...

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LETTER TO THE PACIFIC APPEAL, 2 AUGUST 1862

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pp. 203-204

MR. EDITOR—“Put down the rebellion at all hazards!” is the cry of the Governors and people of the loyal States; but there is one hazardous step yet to be taken, which would help the work wonderfully. There have been many killed and much money...

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PART III. Poems from California

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pp. 205-212

In a letter published in the 25 November 1853 issue of Frederick Douglass’ Paper, and then reprinted in Arguments, Pro and Con, on the Call for a National Emigration Convention, Whitfield states that the first essay he had ever written for publication, back in the winter...

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ELEGY ON T. T. TATEM, ESQ. 1

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pp. 213-214

A HERO’S soul has passed away, Gone to a higher, brighter sphere; His body to its kindred clay Is borne, and leaves us sorrowing here...

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TO A—. SKETCHING FROM NATURE2

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p. 214-214

YES, priestess at the shrine of Art, Continue still to sketch from Nature; And let her charms inspire thy heart To be her humble imitator. Her flocks and herds, her plains and hills...

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A POEM

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pp. 215-228

WRITTEN FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION3...

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POEM

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pp. 229-230

WRITTEN BY J. M. WHITFIELD FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE ANNIVERSARY OF WEST INDIAN EMANCIPATION, AT HAYES PARK, AUGUST 3D, 186822 From bright West Indies’ sunny seas Comes borne upon the balmy breeze The joyous shout, the gladsome tone, Long in those bloody isles unknown,— Bearing across the heaving wave The song of the unfettered slave...

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POEM23

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pp. 231-236

“God fixed it certain that whatever day, Sees man a slave takes half his worth away.”24Thus sang the bard, and yet how long, Eternal God of life and light, The weak have cowered beneath the strong, And might usurped the place of right...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 237-239


E-ISBN-13: 9781469603506
E-ISBN-10: 1469603500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834459
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834459

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011