The Work of Afro-American Women
A leaf from Freedom's golden chapter fair,
We bring to thee, dear father! Near her shrine
None came with holier purpose, nor was thine
Alone the soul's mute sanction; every prayer
Thy captive brother uttered found a share
In thy wide sympathy; to every sign
That told the bondman's need thou didst incline,
No thought of guerdon hadst thou but to bear
A loving part in Freedom's strife. To see
Sad lives illumined, fetters rent in twain,
Tears dried in eyes that wept for length of days--
Ah! was not that a recompense for thee?
And now, where all life's mystery is plain,
Divine approval is thy sweetest praise.
This beautiful verse appears in the opening pages of an exquisite memorial volume to the
memory of Charles B. Ray, prepared by his loving daughters, Florence and H. Cordelia Ray, of
New York City.
Mrs. Mary Ashe Lee, a graduate of Wilberforce
82University and wife of Bishop B.F. Lee, has, by her intelligence and sympathy, done much to
inspire the students of that University with a love for broad culture, true refinement and high
moral aims. Mrs. Lee has frequently added to the grace of public occasions at the college by her
contributions of verse. One of the most beautiful, "Tawawa," commemorates the former Indian
name of the present site of Wilberforce. We give a short extract:
Where the hoary-headed winter
Dwells among the leafless branches,
Filling all the earth with whiteness,
Freezing all the streams and brooklets,
And with magic fingers working
With his frosty threads of lace work
Wraps the land in sweet enchantment.
Thus the site of Wilberforce is,
Wilberforce, the colored Athens.
But another name she beareth,
Which the Indians call Tawawa.
I will tell you of Tawawa;
She the pride in all of Piqua,
Pride of all the Shawnee nation,
Child of love and admiration.
In the bosom of the forest,
Of Ohio's primal forest,
83Stood a wigwam, lone and dreary,
With its inmates sick and weary;
Snow-drifts covered all the doorway;
Still the snow kept falling, falling,
And the winds were calling, calling
Round the wigwam of Winona.
Far had gone the good Owego
To the lakes in north Ohio,
Looking for some ven'son for her:
Scarce was everything that winter.
Thus Winona, weeping, sighing,
On her bed of deerskin lying,
Pressing fondly to her bosom,
With a mother's love, a blossom,
Which the Spirit sent to cheer her,
Sent to coo and nestle near her;
Cried Winona, in her anguish,
For she feared the child would languish,
"Oh, sweet Spirit, hear thy daughter;
Give us bread, as well as water!"
Then a vision passed before her,
And its scenes did quite restore her,
For she saw the dogwood blossom.
Now she had her father's wisdom,
So she knew that these white flowers
Came to speak of brighter hours,
Speak of sunshine and of plenty.
"Ah, my wee, wee pickaninny,
I will call you the
My Tawawa, whitest flower!"
Another poem by Mrs. Lee, entitled "Afmerica,"
84and of a more recent date, contains many beautiful thoughts expressed in a most chaste and