How Poets Help End Slavery: A Lecture with James G. Basker

Oxbridge’s founder Professor James G. Basker paid a visit to students in the New York College Experience on Tuesday, July 17th. He gave a lecture about how poetry helped to end slavery, and later attended an Ice Cream Social in order to get to know some of this year’s students a little bit better.

Professor Basker began his lecture by explaining that, “in today’s world, it’s easy to hear people say business is important, economics are important, science is important, [and that] literature [is only] nice and aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t really matter; what I want to show is that it does matter.”

During the lecture, Basker discussed the contents of his book, “Amazing Graze,” which includes over four hundred poems by over 250 poets, which together create the first anthology of poetic writings on slavery during the enlightenment. Only six of the poems in his book have been published prior to Basker’s book since they were originally printed, even though the earliest poems are from the 1600s.

The lecture was focused primarily on the roles that poets had in shaping history. The poems written brought the public eye to the injustices and horrors of slavery, especially since they were written by men, women, Africans, African Americans, and even white slaveowners, which helped to put slavery into a perspective relatable to all who were connected to slavery in some way. Basker described the poems as important historical artifacts that can actually give us more insight to the “more elusive sides of history.”

After reading and discussing exerts from “Amazing Grace,” NYCE students were given the opportunity to ask questions about his lecture. In conclusion, Basker explained that he hoped for the students to take away that poetry does have tremendous value in shaping history, and to always look past books like anthologies as they will always leave out important pieces of literature like those published in his book.

By Sara Evall

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