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Sustenance of life from me

This is an incredibly powerful poem written by a black slave about having to breastfeed her masters children. Its unbelievably moving and deeply effective. Some of the slave women who nursed and gave life to the masters children were not allowed to nurse their own babies. Its heartbreaking.

“You were afraid to nurse your young lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight and he should flee to firmer loveliness. And so you passed them, your children, on to me. Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood drank the sustenance of life from me. And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy. I could have lied, told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger. But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence. For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content and as for color knew no difference. Yes, in that first while I kept your sons and daughters alive. But when they grew strong in blood and bone that was of my milk you taught them to hate me. Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips so that strength that was of myself turned and spat upon me, despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons. You know I speak true.“ (Beah Richards, excerpt from “A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood")

(photo and excerpt taken from:

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