Poetry Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What are the themes in Frances E.W Harper's poems "Ethiopia" and "The Slave Mother?"

Expert Answers info

Ester Baumgartner, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookPh.D. from University of Miami (Fla.)

calendarEducator since 2016

write781 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

Frances Harper was a female African American poet of the 1800s. Her poems "Ethiopia" and "The Slave Mother" reflect on the pain and suffering of slavery in the United States but also the legacy of slavery in Africa.

"Ethiopia" mentions the country's "cry of agony" and refers to those who would enslave her people as the "tyrant," whose "yoke" and "fetters" keep Ethiopia's people submissive and inferior. However, the poem suggests that God will recognize Ethiopia's plight and will free the country from its pain and agony. Eventually, the poet suggests, Ethiopia will "smile" and her "sorrows cease" as she gains "redress" from God.

"The Slave Mother," on the other hand, is a bleaker and more specific portrayal of the struggles of African American women under slavery. In addition to the sexual assault that many female slaves were subject too, women had to deal with the ever-present possibility that her children would be torn from her and sold to another slave master. That is exactly what the...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 709 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2013

write4,086 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial