In honor of Women’s History Month 2011, I’ve selected one woman to profile every day from March 1st – March 31st, 2011.
Harriet E. Wilson: Author of Our Nig (or Sketches from a Free Black), businesswoman, Spiritualist, educator and….yup, you guessed it: professional radical badass.
Generally accepted as an autobiographical novel, Wilson’s innovative work integrates two genres of the American literary tradition- the Sentimental Novel and the 19th century Slave Narrative- and stands today as the first known novel published by a black woman in English and the earliest novel published in the United States by an African American. – The Harriet Wilson Project
I read this book for a class several years ago, and I just want to note one thing. IIRC, the intended audience of the novel was Whitey, specifically Northern whites who disdained Southern slave states but failed to recognize that many Northern Blacks were essentially trapped into de facto slavery. While Our Nig is certainly important — especially for the purposes of understand institutionalized/systemic oppression — Wilson went on to become more politically active and radical after its publication. (The below linked Henry Louis Gates Jr. piece goes more into her political activism after the publication of the book.)
Free e-book version of Our Nig, provided by Project Gutenberg
Petzel Book Blog’s review of Our Nig
Harriet Wilson’s Sunday School – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.