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Faith wrote the following poem in the Spring 2023 section of our course "A Young People's History of the United States." Faith wrote her poem following the week in which we focus on the role of women in early American history and in response to the image of Sojourner Truth. Students learned that in Sojourner Truth's time, photographers often referred to the captured image in a photograph as the "shadow" and that Sojourner Truth created the cards in the image to sell as a way to support her activism as an abolitionist and suffragist.

Faith's poem:

I sell the shadow to support the substance

I’d give it all right now

I've worked

And worked

Days and days

Seen all my children sold off as slaves

I'm a Black Woman in America

I have nothing left to lose

I’ve worked as much as a man has

Ain't I woman too

Nobody opens carriage doors for me

Only Jesus hears my pleas

Look at my arms

Look at my hands

Look at my knees

Look at the glasses barely fitting my face

Knitting at an insane pace

This is a wretched place

I sell the shadow

All the shadows

Every shadow

And one day

They will all know about the substance

They will know my name

Created by Moxie in "A Young People's History of the United States" course, Spring 2023.

Moxie's artwork was created in response to students reading the following excerpt from “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.”

The first object that saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship...waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, that was soon converted into terror...I was immediately handled and tossed up to see if I was sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had got into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me…

I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life: so that, with the loathsomeness of the stench, and with my crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat...I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables; and on my refusing to eat, one of them held me ... and laid me across, I think, the windlass, and tied my feet, while the other flogged me severely.

In a little time after, amongst the poor chained men, I found some of my own nation...I inquired of these what was to be done with us. They gave me to understand we were to be carried to these white people’s country to work for them. I was then a little revived …

But still I feared that I should be put to death, the white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner: for I had never seen such instances of brutal cruelty: and this is not only shewn towards us blacks, but also to some of the whites themselves …

I could not help expressing my fearful apprehensions to some of my countrymen … I asked them how the vessel could go. They told me they could not tell; but that there was cloth put upon the masts by the help of the ropes I saw, and then the vessel went on; and the white men had some spell or magic they put in the water, when they liked, in order to stop the vessel…

While we stayed on the coast I was mostly on deck; and one day … I saw one of these vessels coming in with the sails up...when the anchor was let go, I and my countrymen who saw it, were lost in astonishment to observe the vessel stop, and were now convinced it was done by magic … At last, when the ship … had got in all her cargo ... we were all put under deck …

...The stench of the hold, while we were on the coast, was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time … now that the whole ship’s cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, being so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration … and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died, thus falling victims to the improvident avarice … of their purchasers. This deplorable situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains … and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which children often fell, and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered it a scene of horror almost inconceivable …

In this manner we continued to undergo more hardships than I can now relate, hardships which are inseparable from this accursed trade...

We know we have some great writers in our school and all of our students have a heart for justice. We hope to see some entries from Foster Woods Folk School learners in the Fighting Words Poetry Contest from the Pulitzer Center!

Learn more at this link:

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