The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

George Horton

  1. What are some features of Horton's metrics and language choices?
  2. "On Hearing of the Intention of a Gentleman to Purchase the Poet's Freedom"
  3. How is imagery employed throughout the poem?
  4. What is the emotional state of the speaker at the end of the poem?
  5. What are some of the poem's qualities of language and thought?
  6. In reality, how long would it be until George Horton obtained his freedom?

"Division of an Estate"

  1. What does the poet see as the negative consequences of the settling of a slaveholder's estate?
  2. How does the poem's language reflect its subject? Is the closure effective?

"George Moses Horton, Myself"

  1. What is the poet's problem? How does he attempt to deal with it?
  2. How does the poem's language reinforce its themes?

James Whitfield


  1. To what popular song does the poem allude? What effect is created by echoing a patriotic hymn?
  2. In what meter is the poem written? What effect is created by the poem's metrics and language?
  3. What hypocrises and injustices does the poet especially decry? What have been some disappointments and betrayals suffered by black people?
  4. How does the poet seek to oppose these wrongs? What is his attitude toward violent revolution?
  5. What is the object of his final prayer? Do you feel this closure is effective?

"The Misanthropist"

  1. Who is the speaker of this dramatic monologue?
  2. What reasons does the "misanthropist" give for his inability to enjoy cheerful music? What experiences have shaped his life?
  3. To which aspects of history and literature has the speaker responded, and why? Why has be been disillusioned by patriotism, religion and love?
  4. What is the misanthropist's final mental state? Does he retain any goals and satisfactions?
  5. What does the final image convey about which aspects of his situation most trouble him?
  6. What features of the poem contribute to its effectiveness?

"Yes, Strike Again that Sounding String"

  1. What kind of music does the poet respond to, and why? What is his motive for listening to music of storms and battle?
  2. What therapeutic effect does he hope it will have on him? Do you think this is a psychologically valid hope?


How does Whitfield's "Self-Reliance" differ from that promoted by R. W. Emerson?

What ideals does the poem promote? What evils may beset the subject, and how does he rise above them? Toward what are his actions directed?


Ada (Sarah Forten, later Sarah Forten Grimke)


  1. Does it add to our view of this poem to know that her father was an active abolitionist, and that the book it praises was written by her aunt?
  2. Why is she concerned about defining "woman's mission" and role in the abolitionist movement? What does she think that role may be?
  3. What types of arguments does she use to buttress her points? What use is made of the bible and of religious appeals?
  4. What is meant by the final allusion to Achan's sin? Does this metaphor provide an effective closure?
  5. Do you think the poem's verse form is appropriate to her subject?
  6. Were the themes of Ada's poems appropriate for placement in The Liberator? Why do you think she may have used a pseudonym?

Joshua McCarter Simpson

"Away to Canada"

  1. What is contributed to this poem by the use of the lyrics for "Oh Susannah!"? How does the speaker's situation differ from that of the singer of "Oh Susannah!"?
  2. What homely incidents and details add to the drama of the poem? How is Great Britain personified? What is his relation to his "old master"?
  3. What domestic sadness is created by his need to leave the country? Why can't Susannah join him? What purpose is served by his final reassurance to her?
  4. Who might have been the audience for this poem? What purposes might a poem such as this have served for them? Do you think the rollicking lyrics and humor add to its effectiveness?

"The Twilight Hour"

  1. What features does the poet ascribe to nature? What purpose is served by having the forces of nature speak for themselves?
  2. How are the two sections of the poem contrasted? In what does the poet place his faith for the freeing of slaves?
  3. Is the poem's final imagery of dawn consistent with the rest of the poem? How does it affect the poem's final tone?
  4. What is added to the poem by its rhythms? Are these regular? What is the effect of using falling rhythms to alternate with strong end rhymes?

Alfred Gibbs Campbell


  1. What is meant by the title, "Warning"?
  2. What acts have been considered "treason," and how does the poet argue against this view?
  3. What remedy does he invoke? Does the poem openly advocate a revolution of slaves? What purpose is served by ascribing the revolt to divine agency?

"Song of the Decanter"

  1. What are some humorous aspects of the poem? What arresting claims are made by the bottle?
  2. What purpose is served by casting the poem as a dramatic monologue? As a pictogram?
  3. What are some artful features of its construction?

"Cry 'Infidel'"

  1. What attitudes of mind are the object of the poem's satire? How can you discern the speaker's point of view?
  2. What purpose is served by the poem's rhythm and refrain?
  3. What can you tell about Campbell's beliefs from reading this poem?

Ann Plato

  1. What does the speaker's grandfather remember about his people's customs?
  2. How was their culture destroyed? What does he especially wish his granddaughter to remember?
  3. What is added to the narrative by the setting and manner in which it is told?

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