Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World

Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World

Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World

Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World

Excerpt

The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest’, one of C.L. Franklin’s best-known sermons, offers a critique of the United States, a nation predicated as much on exploitation and oppression as on liberty and democracy. The eagle of the title is not only the central image of the sermon, but emblem of the American Republic, and metaphor of divine presence and protection. The piece begins as exegesis, listing, then expounding the characteristics shared by the eagle and the divine: strength, speed and vision. It subsequently slips into an apparently unrelated folk narrative of a captive eagle being raised on a poultry farm. His difference from the rest of the birds is soon evident, and the eagle is confined to a cage in order to prevent his escape. As the eagle ages, he begins to outgrow his cage, as he does all subsequent cages built for him, until finally, in pity, he is released by the farmer. The correspondence with the initial biblical tale becomes clear in a final analogy between the eagle’s release and a Christian prophecy of freedom and resurrection:

My soul
      Is an eagle
In the cage that the Lord
      Has made for me.…
My soul
      Is caged in,
      In this old body,
      Yes it is,
And one of these days
The man who made the cage
Will open the door
An let my soul
      Go.
One of these days
My soul will take wings
My soul will take wings.

1 1915–84. African American minister, civil rights leader and father of Aretha.

2 C.L. Franklin, ‘The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest’, in Nellie McKay and Henry Louis Gates

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.