Prayer for the Slave


Background Notes

For its time, the antislavery movement was quite sophisticated in its use of the available media to spread its message. In fact, the skillfulness of antislavery “propaganda” was one of the reasons the movement was so feared and disliked. Abolitionist writers took familiar tunes and provided them with new lyrics that were scathing attacks on slavery and its defenders. This antislavery hymn is sung to the tune of the Missionary Hymn, still sometimes sung today and also known by its first line, “From Greenland’s icy mountains.” The missionary version deals with converting pagans to Christians in foreign lands; the antislavery version, with converting slaveholders in the United States.

Transcription of Primary Source

Words —by J. Pierpont.

TuneMissionary Hymn.

Almighty god, thou Giver
Of all our sunny plains,
That stretch from sea to river,
Hear’st thou thy children’s chains?
See’st thou the snapper’d lashes
That daily sting a−fresh?
See’st thou the cow−skin’s gashes,
Cut through the quivering flesh?

See’st thou the sores that rankle,
Licked by no pitying dog,
Where, round the bondsman’s ancle,
They’ve riveted a clog?
Hear’st thou the curse he muters?
Seest thou his flashing eye?
Hear’st thou the prayer he utters,
That thou woulst let him die.

God of the poor and friendless,
Shall this unequalled wrong,
This agony, be endless?
How long, O Lord, how long
Shall man set, on his brother
The iron heal of sin,
The Holy ghost to smother—
To crush the God within!

Call out, O God, thy legions—
The hosts of love and light!
Ev’n in the blasted regions
That slavery wraps in night,
Some of thine own anointed
Shall catch the welcome call,
And, at the hour appointed,
Do battle for the thrall.

Let press, let pulpit thunder
In all slave−holders’ ears
Till they disgorge the plunder
They’ve garnered up for years;
Till Mississippi’s valley,
Till Carolina’s coast,
Round Freedom’s standard rally,
A vast, a ransomed host!

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The Anti−Slavery Offering and Picknick; A Collection of Speeches, Poems, Dialogues, Songs for Schools and A.S. Meetings
J. Pierpont
H.W. Williams
Place of Publication: 
Old Sturbridge Village