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Poet uses runaway slave ads to tell a story of resistance

St. Mary’s College of Maryland unveiled a new memorial this month honoring the lives of enslaved people of southern Maryland, including some who lived on the very land their campus is on. The memorial tells the story of “resilience, persistence, and creative problem-solving that defined the lives” of the enslaved people that lived there between 1750 and 1815, and asks: How can higher education institutions atone for their legacy of slavery?

Seattle-based poet and educator Quenton Baker contributed poetry to the memorial, including the following poem, which uses old ads for runaway slaves to tell the story of resistance.

By Quenton Baker:

not hewn from the whip
not made by the lash
come BAPTIST
come LYDIA
come MOLL CROCK
come GEOFFRY
slave falls intolerable against you
you living temples
you gilded wards
come STEPHEN JOHNSON
come WILL NORRIS
come BAR
come NAT
this day and every day belongs to your longing
to your shortened years
your worn joints
your smooth black laugh toward peril

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