Political Poems: ‘The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point' by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Mark Ford and Seamus Perry

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s deeply disturbing 1847 poem about a woman escaping slavery and killing her child was written to shock its intended white female readership to the abolitionist cause. Browning was the direct descendant of slave owners in Jamaica and a fervent anti-slavery campaigner, and her dramatic monologue presents a searing attack on the hypocrisy of ‘liberty’ as enshrined in the United States constitution. Mark and Seamus look at the origins of the poem and its story, and its place among other abolitionist narratives of the time.

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