John W. Jones
By Akua Lezli Hope

John W. Jones shook the shackles off his soul
Walked 300 miles to reach his goal
escaped wretched slavery
in 18 hundred and forty three*

Arriving in Elmira where
he laid his burden down, free!
Stayed, picked up learning literacy,
worked hard, bought land, made a family

Reading and God were the keys
to his energetic legacy
He buried the dead of his enemies
recording each soldier carefully

Nearly 3 thousand bodies he committed to the earth
shaped a place for those left to visit and mourn
a quiet, sacred space that still lives on
as testimony to those lost, long gone

There was wisdom in his forgiveness
His spiritual wealth became material
rewards for his service increased
his holdings and his land

We lift up John Jones’ name to praise
his works in those cruel, unjust days
see his acts as extraordinary
his diligence, rigor, his plan to
change his situation his resolve
to take a stand,

To press toward the mark
keep his eyes on the prize
as he led himself to freedom
He would save other’s lives

He was a stationmaster on the underground railroad
hundreds and hundreds of souls he enabled to be free
that a new future could unfold
making a way out of no way
he left a shining legacy

Knowing many shared his aspirations
for dignity, prosperity and salvation
from slavery’s endless humiliations
before emancipation had a proclamation
there was a special stop in Elmira
moving folks safely on trains
to Canada

The lesson of John W. Jones’ life
in time of deep denial and strife:
create success, even if there’s no model
always reach out, always reach back

Help others move up, move up
create a way to help others ever on
press toward the mark, sing the Lord’s song
kingdom’s glory road to freedom

In remembering John W. Jones
We honor his spirit of nonviolent resistance
We honor our own unfailing resilience
Our connection to the transcendent
Our perserverance, strength and goodness
Our connection to God.

*Some documents state John W. Jones arrived in Elmira in 1843, others state 1844.

Printed with the permission of Poetess Akua Lezli Hope

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