Slave Narratives

Who was the first black woman to publish a novel?

Harriet E. Adams Wilson (c. 1827–1870) was the first black woman to publish a novel. Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In A Two Story White House North, Showing That Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There was published on August 18, 1859, in Boston, where she was living alone after her husband had abandoned her and her son. She hoped to realize money from the book to reunite herself with her son, but he died before this was accomplished. The book was also the first novel published in the United States by a black man or woman; William Wells Brown’s Clotel and Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends were both published in England. Our Nig presents social, racial, and economic brutality suffered by a free mulatto woman in the antebellum North. Although several copies of the work are extant, including one at Fisk University, in the early 1980s scholar Henry Louis Gates rediscovered the book and removed it from obscurity.


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