This poem includes selections of a letter from Joseph Halliburton of Carlisle, England in which he asks Billie Little for help finding work in America. The language in this letter is markedly more stilted and grammatically correct than the other, much more earthy, letters from Cumberland (now known as Cumbria, in North West England). I also included a P.S. added by Billie's and Thomas's brother George, referencing"my wife's brother's son's letter". That phrase is the only phrase among the all the letters that I altered, changing it to "Joseph's letter." Here as in all the letters, I did preserve the original spellings.
The letter in it's entirety can is scanned below:
The song lyrics incorporated in this poem are from "Good-bye Brother." I have not been able to find a recording of this song. The music can be found on page 47 of Slave Songs of the United States. The full lyrics are:
Good-bye, brother good-bye, brother, If I don’t see you more; Now God bless you, now God bless you, If I don’t see you more. We part in the body but we meet in the spirit. We’ll meet in heaven in the blessed kingdom.
So good-bye, brother, good-bye sister; Now God bless you, now God bless you.
This song was originally collected at a midnight meeting after the death of a soldier. This seems extremely fitting to the poem. So many departures at this time would have been as permanent as death. For the young man Joseph, who most likely will not return home, and certainly for the families separated by human trafficking, there was little to no hope of reunion.