‘It is an article of faith that knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.’
The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South Kenneth M. Stampp
While the patrols inflamed the sudden sky
with bodies charred beyond race, runaways,
still green from the deep forests of Guinea,
crossed Georgia’s strange, red earth then the barrens,
where pines sighed like ancestral ghosts, and swamps,
where vipers lisped in honeysuckle,
to reach the shore and walk home through the sea –
whose waters, as they drowned, boomed like drums.
That aged schooner, the ‘Human Shame’ – out of
Liverpool, Lagos, New Orleans,
Baltimore, Ferguson… – is anchoring
with a clatter of chains.