The sign read, “Auction, Negroes for sale here.
Healthy young females, able-bodied males.”
The SLAVE pen, with a guard, the Overseer.
Captured souls in bondage behind iron rails.
O where is justice, Lord, from mankind’s sin
They judge us on the color of our skin.
The sign read, “Devices for slave restraint,
Iron masks, collars, leg shackles and spurs.
These will assist you, MASTER, in constraint.
Very helpful when used during transfers.”
O where is our help, Father, must we endure
Inhuman treatment so cruel and severe.
The sign read, “$150 Reward for--
Return of my runaway slave, Nate.
You are warned not to harbor or succor
Him or be instrumental in his ESCAPE.”
O please deliver your children sweet Lord
Assist us to follow the drinking gourd.
Amidst the heavens a celestial sign,
Polaris, the North Star, God’s FREEDOM map.
Those enslaved cry out, Savior we are Thine,
Bodies, minds, and souls our Masters entrap,
O sing praises to the Lord I am Free.
The sign read, “Welcome to Cincinnati.”
* * * * * *
The "drinking gourd" refers to the hollowed out gourd used by slaves and other rural Americans as a water dipper. The poem uses it as a code name for the Big Dipper star formation, which points to Polaris and North—indicating freedom for the slave.
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