What is the theme of the poem "Bury Me in a Free Land" by Frances E.W Harper? Be specific.

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Perhaps the thesis statement of this poem can be found in these two lines:

My rest shall be calm in any grave

Where none can call his brother a slave.

The two key themes in the poem, then, are injustice and death, with the poet using the motif of herself still suffering in her grave as an expression of the fact that, as long as there is injustice and slavery, even in death she will not be free to rest.

The poet emphasizes that her request, that her relatives "bury me not in a land of slave," is not such a lofty one. She asks no "monument" and cares not if her grave is "in a lowly plain" or "among earth's humblest graves." The plea that her grave be not trodden upon by "a trembling slave" or "a coffle gang" is actually a very humble one in and of itself; the request for an end to slavery should not be perceived as a lofty goal.

The poet uses the image of herself, unquiet in her coffin, perceiving injustices above, as a vehicle to list a number of atrocities common under slavery, such as "the lash," "babes torn from [a mother's] breast," "bloodhounds seizing their human prey" and girls "bartered" as if they were animals. Slavery, the poem emphasizes, is something so self-evidently atrocious and inhuman that to call an end to it would allow countless others to sleep in peace. For as long as slavery continues, even the dead cannot escape its evils.

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Frances Harper (1825-1911) was an African-American poet who was involved in the movement to abolish slavery.  Her poem "Bury Me in a Free Land" is clearly an anti-slavery statement.

The speaker in the poem says that she is willing to be buried anywhere, even among "earth's humblest graves," as long as she is not buried "in a land where men are slaves."

The speaker describes some of the horrors of slavery: lashings, "babes torn from [their mother's] breast," bloodhounds seeking fugitives, and young girls being sold "from their mother's arms...for their youthful charms."

The speaker says that she could not rest in a place where such things take place; if she saw them from her eternal resting-place, her "eye would flash with a mournful flame, / [Her] death-pale cheek [would] grow red with shame."

Similar to the outlook of many slaves, the speaker does not see any practical solution to the slavery problem.  Rather, she seeks refuge from the problem in the afterlife. 

 

 

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