Setting the Course for Freedom


By David Edward Cronin ([1], New York History [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Without a clue of what would come after,

they set a course for freedom,

knowing the threat they faced if recaptured,

But, they knew threat intimately,

he was their dark companion,

he walked beside them daily,

the threat of being sold,

the threat of being raped

the threat of being punished

(for the smallest infraction).

But love was there, too,

though it was fragile,

its tender heart broken

over and over again

like skin

flayed by the whip.

Now was the time,

the questions posed,

How can we stay?

How can we leave?

We just go.


This poem is in response to Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Clue/Course/Tender/Threat/Pose


22 thoughts on “Setting the Course for Freedom

  1. Well said, Merril. Coincidentally, I just attended a Senior College session on Grinnell, Iowa, and the role that community had in the Underground Railroad. It inspired me to at least think about writing historical fiction about that time.

  2. I wondered about my ability to write the slave perspective, but the wealth of material you mention includes the slave experience related by slaves. Reading all of that would be critical. Also, I look to Sue Monk Kidd’s book “The Invention of Wings” and know a non-black author can get it right.

  3. Your words remind me of the quilts that were said to hold maps to the Underground Railroad.
    I’m looking forward to (eventually) reading Colson Whitehead’s book too. I’ve liked everyone of his books that I’ve read so far, especially “John Henry Days”.

  4. Western New York has some sites, including close to Lake Ontario, known to be hidden stops. In fact, Harriet Tubman would cross into Canada at Niagara Falls. There were angels in those days, but there were the opposite, as well. Imagine the refugees in Europe, if their conditions included people hunting them for the reward.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Merril and drawing me in. I was also interested in reading how there were those people who helped and the dobbers. I have been watching the Paralympics very intently and wrote a post today about sowing the seeds versus being the lawn mower, running people down. There are times when those choices flash at you and you have to decide which road you’re going to take.
    xx Rowena

    • Thank you for reading, Rowena. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem!
      I am behind on reading your posts (and many others). I just this morning finished working on a summer test writing project. It was quite intensive. Now I’m going to try to catch up a bit over the weekend before going back to working on the rape books. 🙂

  6. The painting and your writing were beautifully and honestly told, Merril.
    I cannot imagine the torture, overwhelming fears and pain. The gas chambers and horrors of the Germans, including mainly Jewish people, are a parallel journey. The Egyptian pyramid building slaves had to endure but not sure if any were able to escape?
    Your writing was told with care and showed humanity. “Just go.” It meant travel while risking life and limb. Escaping was a dangerous choice but the only one, I believe.
    We have several tunnels in our town here, from one large old building to another. We have a piece of history under us, of the underground railroad.

    • Thank you, Robin.
      Yes, there have been many forms of bondage throughout history, and slavery is still an evil that exist throughout the world, even in the US, although it is no longer codified in law.

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