Childhood in the Early Republic . Children and the Question of Freedom . The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , 1845.
Children and the Question of Freedom
"You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom's swift-winged angels, that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of iron! O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me and you, the turbid waters roll. Go on, go on. O that I could also go! Could I but swim! If I could fly! O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! . . . .O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught, or get clear, I'll try it. I had as well die with ague as the fever. I have only one life to lose. I had as well be killed running as die standing. Only think of it; one hundred miles straight north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! God helping me, I will. It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will take to the water. . . . Meanwhile, I will try to bear up under the yoke. I am not the only slave in the world. Why should I fret? I can bear as much as any of them. Besides, I am but a boy, and all boys are bound to some one. It may be that my misery in slavery will only increase my happiness when I get free. There is a better day coming."
Pocahontas as an English young lady, with some attractively placed Native garb
Pocahontas visiting the British court
John White, circa 1585, Virginia. Note the English doll in the little girl’s hand
“Eva’s Farewell,” Illustration from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, circa 1852.
Puritan tales of captivity often revolved around alleged acts of barbarity towards children.
A Popular History of the United States. Vol. 2. By William Cullen Bryant, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878
Salem Witchtrial Papers
“Accused at the Salem Witch Trials,” circa 1883
Perfect in bliss she from her heav'nly home
Looks down, and smiling beckons you to come;
Why then, fond parents, why these fruitless groans?
Restrain your tears, and cease your plaintive moans.
Freed from a world of sin, and snares, and pain
Why would you wish your daughter back again?
Phillis Wheatley, “To the Right Honourable WILLIAM, Earl of DARTMOUTH, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for North-America, &c.
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch'd from Afric'sfancy'd happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent's breast?Steel'd was that soul and by no misery mov'd
That from a father seiz'd his babe belov'd
This specimen of penmanship and drawing skill would have been featured at one of the school’s yearly examination days.
A drawing by James McCune Smith, who would go on to become the first African American to earn an M.D. He would also write the introduction to Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom
I appear before you . . . to take my leave of my School Mates and much endeared teachers. In doing this, I feel it difficult to suppress those feelings which such an occasion is calculated to produce on a heart sensible of obligations so numerous. . .
[I]t needs only to point you to those specimens, and remind you of the exercises this day exhibited before you to demonstrate a truth which must at no distant period find its way to the hearts of the most incredulous viz. That the African race, though by too many of their fellow men have long been, some still are held in a state, the most degrading to humanity, are nevertheless, endowed by the same almighty power that made us all, with intellectual capacities, not inferior to any of the greater human family.
In looking round on my school mates, I observe one among them who excites my most tender solicitudes.
It is my Brother.
John, this I feel to be an occasion which calls up all those tender emotions which he ever has designed should be felt by brother and sister towards each other.
What shall I say to you?
Oh, if I were called to part with you as some poor girls have, to part with their equally dear kindred, and each of us (like them) to be forcibly conveyed away into wretched slavery never to see each other again—-but I must forbear—Thank heaven it is not, no is not the case with us; nor have I ever the anxiety which the circumstances of leaving you under the charge of strangers would produce. No, I leave you to receive instruction, advice reproof, and every other salutary means of informing your mind and correcting your morals, from well known, and long tried friends.
Slavery! Oh, thou cruel stain,
Thou dost fill my heart with pain:
See [m]y brother, there he stands
Chain’d by slavery’s cruel bands
Could we not feel a brother’s woes,
Relieve the wants he undergoes;
Snatch him from slavery’s cruel smart,
And to him freedom’s joy impart?