The Original Anti-Slavery Harp
A curious mid-19th century pamphlet came our way several years ago. It lacked a wrapper and had no separate title-page. The caption title on the first page was “The Original Anti-Slavery Harp. By S. Long.” It clearly was inspired by “The Anti-Slavery Harp which was edited by William Wells Brown and first published in 1848.
We have tried sporadically and without success over the years to locate information about the author and this pamphlet. It does not appear in the NUC or OCLC and doesn’t show up in any of the standard bibliographies of African American poetry.
Mr. Long reports in a brief introduction that he is a 33 year old African American who earns his living by ditching and grubbing, that he is unable to write other than his name, and so has had to compose his poetry in his head and rely on others to reduce his poetry to writing, and that he has refused offers of education and emigration from colonizationists. It is, of course, possible that Long is the fictional creation of an abolitionist writing anonymously about the greed and hypocrisy of many of his fellow white Americans and their empty boasts about “American freedom.”
We believe that Long is just who he says he is -- convinced partly by his poem “Origin of the White Man.” In that poem Long describes how, after God first made an inferior man who turned out white and wicked and cunning, God decided to make man in his own image and so made the better man black. Long goes on to state that God sets black folks (whom God knows by their “wool”) on his right hand to fill his kingdom while relegating white folks to his left hand “among the hairy goats.” This poem with its argument for black superiority seems most unlikely to have been written by any white abolitionist.
The original is not for sale. We may reprint some copies of this pamphlet in the near future. Winfred Rembert, the talented African American artist about whom we have written in previous catalogs, has offered to provide some illustrations. Please let us know if you might be interested in purchasing a copy.
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Civil Rights legislation, defendants’ rights, affirmative action, freedom of the press, government programs for the elderly and the disadvantaged, and some of the important provisions of the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Convention are all at risk. Many argue that changed circumstances have made these programs and protections obsolete and that laissez faire capitalism and unfettered government power provide the surest route to safety and prosperity. Others argue that greed and fear should not trump justice and fairness. There are no easy solutions but we dishonor the memory of those who came before if we just bury ourselves in our personal lives and remain silent. Please take the time to decide what you think and to vote.
Phil & Sharon McBlain