Anaïs Duplan Reads Poem for Mary Bowser, an Ex-Slave and Civil War Spy


Poet Anaïs Duplan. Photo by Mohammad Mirghorbani

Anaïs Duplan reads a poem for Mary Bowser, an ex-slave and Civil War Spy.

via PBS NewsHour:

“We only have a scant portrait of her early life, but we know that she was baptized in 1846 and was a slave in the home of John Van Lew in Richmond, Virginia. After his death, Van Lew’s wife and daughter Elizabeth freed Mary and the family’s other slaves.

That’s where the story that we know begins. As the Civil War began in 1861, Bowser — then married and living outside Richmond — was still corresponding with Elizabeth, whose quirky personality and pro-Union politics had earned her the local nickname “Crazy Bet.” Bowser began carrying information to Elizabeth from the Confederate White House in Richmond, providing a vital link in the spy network that Elizabeth would build over the course of the war.

Now, Bowser reappears in “My Heart Like a Needle Ever True Turns to the Maid of Ebon Hue,” a new poem by Anaïs Duplan.”

Haitian-born poet Anaïs Duplan on Bowser’s story:

“But in writing Bowser’s story, she realized she didn’t need to couch the meaning of her words. “Whatever I have to say, I mean to say in the way that I feel it, even if I’m afraid of not being heard because of how I’ve said it,” she said.”

We queer slavery and we hear you, fam. Listen for yourself below….



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