Dear Ms. Nelson,

Hello, my name is Aniekeme and I am a 9th grader. I was truly touched by your poem “Thompson and Seaman Vows, African Church” and would like to express my feelings about this poem.

I sincerely loved your poem. As soon as I heard it I completely understood everything that you were trying to express. Well, at least I hope I did. To me this poem meant a couple of things.

First, it showed me that people are not labeled or have to be associated with the things that their parents did. The poem writes about the bride first and says that both of her parents were slaves. Her father most likely died due to his harsh treatments and her mother was set free by her mistress. I presume that the bride was born into slavery but was too young to actually start working, so along with her mother she was sold out.

I liked when your poem said that the groom was uneducated but he still became successful. In the poem, I like how you talked about to two people that are so different but also the same coming together as one.

I am confused with a couple of things though. In the poem it states that Timothy James Seaman is only the son of the late Nancy Seaman on Sunday. To me that could mean a couple of things. It could have meant that when he went to church he was with God so therefore he would be with his mother as well because she was in heaven too. I also thought of it in a way that he would do bad things all the other days of the week, but to honor his mother he would be good and go to church to “be” with her.

I thought it was very inspiring that Miss Charlotte Thompson from the poem would learn and then share her knowledge with others. The fact that the name of the school was “Colored School #3” was very accurate in the way things were back then when segregation was more popular.

I would like to thank you for reading my opinions on your poem. I really did love your poem. Thank for your time.


Grade 9
Mays Landing, NJ

Dear Aniekeme,

I’m very glad to know you were touched by my poem. You must have a romantic heart!

Your understanding of the poem is good, and deep. You are the kind of reader a poet hopes will find her poems!

I’m sorry I didn’t think of including a little introduction on the video, to make clear the fact that this poem is taken from a book about the history of an all-black village, Seneca Village, which existed in Manhattan from 1825 to 1857, when it was destroyed by the creation of Central Park.

You confusion happened because you weren’t given the information implied by the title and the first few lines: the poem is an imaginary newspaper story about a wedding that took place “on Sunday.” Like maybe the wedding announcement appears a day or two after the wedding, on Monday or Tuesday. You see?

Yes, I agree with you that it is inspiring that black people who got some education then felt compelled to share their knowledge. That’s an important part of U.S. history: the way enslaved people who were often forbidden to seek education turned around and passed on whatever they leaned. Because knowledge is power. The name of the school in my poem was the name of an actual school in Seneca Village.

Thank you for writing your opinions of my poem. I really do appreciate that. And I like the way you think!

Best wishes,

Marilyn Nelson

learn more about seneca village

read more dear poet letters 2017