The Slave Mother’s Lament

28 Nov

This artifact is from Frederick Douglass’ Paper in New York in 1855. It depicts a different kind of “Desperate Housewife,” because she is, perhaps, the most desperate kind of housewife. “The Slave Mother’s Lament” describes a slave woman who has a child, and wishes that her newborn would die so that he would not have to endure the hardships she faces as a slave. The poem describes the work the woman does as a slave, from morning until night picking cotton. In the poem, the woman wishes she had a heart of stone so that she would not have to feel the pain she feels. The woman’s desperation truly shows when she wishes death upon her own child. Her life as a slave is so difficult that she would rather her newborn die than struggle the way she has struggled. This poem represents the desperation the slaves felt during this period, and especially the desperation of the slaves who were also mothers. Many women slaves were forced to give their child up to their owners, and their child was often sold to someone else. While before the Women’s Rights Movement many women lacked civil rights, the slave women did not even have the right to their own children. It is for this reason that “The Slave Mother’s Lament” is of paramount importance to “Desperate Housewives” of American poetry.



Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: November 23, 1855

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