February 1, 2013

Forten: We are thy sisters

As part African American, Sarah Louisa Forten advocated for the abolition of slavery through several poems which she contributed to The Liberator. She used the simple pseudonym "Ada" when she published her "An Appeal to Women" in the February 1, 1834 issue of that newspaper. The poem plays off the 19th-century notion that women were particularly important as a moral compass for society and that all women were sisters, regardless of race:

Oh, woman, woman in thy brightest hour
Of conscious worth, of pride, of conscious power
Oh, nobly dare to act a Christian's part,
That well befits a lovely woman's heart!
Dare to be good, as thou canst dare be great;
Despise the taunts of envy, scorn and hate;
Our "skins may differ," but from thee we claim
A sister's privilege, in a sister's name.

We are thy sisters, Oh, woman, woman in thy brightest hour
Of conscious worth, of pride, of conscious power
Oh, nobly dare to act a Christian's part,
That well befits a lovely woman's heart!
Dare to be good, as thou canst dare be great;
Despise the taunts of envy, scorn and hate;
Our "skins may differ," but from thee we claim
A sister's privilege, in a sister's name.

We are thy sisters, – God has truly said,
That of one blood, the nations he has made.
Oh, Christian woman, in a Christian land,
Canst thou unblushing read this great command?
Suffer the wrongs which wring our inmost heart
To draw one throb of pity on thy part;
Our "skins may differ," but from thee we claim
A sister's privilege, in a sister's name.

Oh, woman! – though upon thy fairer brow
The hues of roses and of lilies grow—
These soon must wither in their kindred earth,
From whence the fair and dark have equal birth.
Let a bright halo o'er thy virtues shed
A lustre, that shall live when thou art dead;
Let coming ages learn to bless thy name
Upon the altar of immortal fame.

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