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Persecution by Three Ministers

But my life was hid in Christ. And in 1840, God from above spoke to him

in Albany and he troubled me no more. He had packed his trunk at night

to start for Philadelphia in the morning, and in the morning, he was dead.

—  Rebecca Cox Jackson

c. 1835


Three ministers said I ought not to live.

What death I ought to die these Methodists

appointed: stoned, or tarred and feathered, burnt,

or rolled downhill in a barrel drilled with spikes.


Good Christian men.

My principle by nature was revenge.

My strength lay in the God of power, I learnt.

Obedience would cost all that I could give.


She's chopping up the churches. She must be stopped.

Women aleading men is shameful. She

would break the marriage bed—"All lust is sin."

Their authority: they feared I meant to take

the people from their preachers, which was odd—


I had nowhere to take them, but to God

A.M.E.:  I.  Exodus from St. George's


“...and we all went out of the church in a body, and they were no more

plagued with us in the church.”  —  Richard Allen



Philadelphia, November 1787


Your prayers are done. You're not to sit here.  No.


Trustee Jackson pointed us upstairs, so

Pa planted me an' Brother in de wayback pew.

"Pa, how come we cain't set downstairs too?"


Pa's face scrinched, like when his hand got bit

by Massa Jackson's mule, both fightin' dem plough hitches.

"Preacher Richard Allen's harvestin' too many souls,

multiplyin' 'em like loaves an' colored fishes."


"Look, Pa—dey's draggin' dat man from his knees,

from up in front. It's Reverend Absalom!

Now all our folks is leavin'.  Pa? Pa!  Please—"


"Son, set. You ten. A man thinks hard an' long

what he can swallow so his blood can eat. Don' cry."


But Pa sat—differently.

                                     From that day, so did I.


“Praise the Lord!”  —  Rebecca Cox Jackson, on being told of the death

of her brother, Reverend Joseph Cox, former pastor of Bethel A.M.E.



My only father, my delinquent teacher,

my sun. I fought to follow you, the preacher.

To serve my Lord as I served you, with all

my spark. You knew I heard the trumpet call.


They published me, and witnessed me a witch;

threatened me with stoning, as heretic;

called me "high-sensed," proud, a self-named prophet.

A word from you, my brother, could have stopped it.


I raised eight children—none of them I bore—

without complaint.  Six of them were yours.

You bade me pour your coffee out

You saved me poor, then cast me out


You think that death will balm the branded hurt?

Yes, I forgive—now pour yourself     some dirt



After a photograph of William E. B. Du Bois's son Burghardt Gomer Du Bois.

A white lace curtain partially overhangs the baby’s head.




My son, though Harvard-schooled, will see their blind

hatred still mock his budding brightness.

A Nigrah scholar. Thin smiles of forced politeness

will lock him tight behind the color-line.


Look, Gentle Reader: his perfect olive skin,

lithe limbs, dark curls, questing blue-brown eyes,

legs crossed to guard his manhood. For behind

his back the laced white Veil descends.


In his baby voice I heard a future prophet.

But white doctors wouldn't treat a colored child    They let—

liberty’s a lie—    diphtheria fester

At eighteen months his small soul    self-sequestered


My son escaped    Not dead    not bound    He's free

Must work    Submission to such grief is slavery

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