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poetry 1619

Mississippi poet Philip Kolin traces the history of enslavement since 1619, this extract from his new book White Terror, Black Trauma (Third World Press).


By Philip Kolin


                  Arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia in August, Jamestown Colony

Some twenty odd of us kidnapped

by the Portuguese, then transported

under slave decks by the White Lion


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to Port Comfort. The sorrow of color

bondage shipped from the old world

to the new. Jamestown, birthplace

of a nation, blackened by our moans;

we feared white words and faces

and the cold sun that rose over

our chained future here. Time did not

set us free. Our lives and limbs slaved

to crop the bounty of a white harvest--

cotton, sugar, rice. Freedom plowed

under in tobacco fields; our hard labor

gone up in the smoke of history.

Our legacy hardly acknowledged

even when Queen Elizabeth II came

to celebrate the three hundred and fiftieth

anniversary of this settlement. The state

dinner in Richmond promoted it as

a white tie affair.

Philip C. Kolin is the Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus and former Editor of the Southern Quarterly at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has published over 40 books including 15 collections of poetry. Among these are Emmett Till in Different States: Poems and Reaching Forever:Poems.