The Underground Railroad eBook

William Still
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,446 pages of information about The Underground Railroad.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (Watkins being her maiden name) was born in the City of Baltimore in 1825, not of slave parentage, but subjected of course to the oppressive influence which bond and free alike endured under slave laws.  Since reaching her majority, in looking back, the following sentences from her own pen express the loneliness of her childhood days.  “Have I yearned for a mother’s love?  The grave was my robber.  Before three years had scattered their blight around my path, death had won my mother from me.  Would the strong arm of a brother have been welcome?  I was my mother’s only child.”  Thus she fell into the hands of an aunt, who watched over her during these early helpless years.  Rev. William Watkins, an uncle, taught a school in Baltimore for free colored children, to which she was sent until she was about thirteen years of age.  After this period, she was put out to work to earn her own living.  She had many trials to endure which she would fain forget; but in the midst of them all she had an ardent thirst for knowledge and a remarkable talent for composition, as she evinced at the age of fourteen in an article which attracted the attention of the lady in whose family she was employed, and others.  In this situation she was taught sewing, took care of the children, &c.; and at the same time, through the kindness of her employer, her greed for books was satisfied so far as was possible from occasional half-hours of leisure.  She was noted for her industry, rarely trifling away time as most girls are wont to do in similar circumstances.  Scarcely had she reached her majority ere she had written a number of prose and poetic pieces which were deemed of sufficient merit to publish in a small volume called “Forest Leaves.”  Some of her productions found their way into newspapers and attracted attention.  The ability exhibited in some of her productions was so remarkable that some doubted and others denied their originality.  Of this character we here copy an extract from one of her early prose productions: 


“Christianity is a system claiming God for its author, and the welfare of man for its object.  It is a system so uniform, exalted and pure, that the loftiest intellects have acknowledged its influence, and acquiesced in the justness of its claims.  Genius has bent from his erratic course to gather fire from her altars, and pathos from the agony of Gethsemane and the sufferings of Calvary.  Philosophy and science have paused amid their speculative researches and wondrous revelations to gain wisdom from her teachings and knowledge from her precepts.  Poetry has culled her fairest flowers and wreathed her softest to bind her Author’s ‘bleeding brow.’  Music has strung her sweetest lyres and breathed her noblest strains to celebrate his fame; whilst Learning has bent from her lofty heights to bow at the lowly cross.  The constant friend of man,
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The Underground Railroad from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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