Harriet E. Wilson (c. 1825-?) was an African-American author and the first African-American woman to publish a novel in the United States. She is best known for her book titled “Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black,” published in 1859. Little is known about Harriet E. Wilson’s early life and background. She was likely born around 1825, possibly in New Hampshire or Massachusetts. Wilson was born into slavery but gained her freedom later in life.
“Our Nig” is a semi-autobiographical novel based on Wilson’s own experiences. The book tells the story of Frado, a young biracial girl abandoned by her white mother and left to live with a New England family. Frado faces mistreatment, abuse, and prejudice from both the family and the community due to her racial identity.
Wilson’s novel offers a candid portrayal of the challenges faced by African Americans in the Northern United States during the 19th century, including racism, discrimination, and the struggle for social acceptance. “Our Nig” is considered an important early work of African-American literature and a significant contribution to American literary history.
Despite the historical significance of her novel, Harriet E. Wilson faced challenges in publishing and promoting her work. She struggled to gain recognition and financial support for her writing, and it is unclear what became of her after the publication of “Our Nig.” The exact date and circumstances of her death remain unknown.
Harriet E. Wilson’s pioneering achievement as the first African-American woman to publish a novel in the United States paved the way for future generations of African-American writers and played a vital role in the development of African-American literature. Her work remains an important contribution to the literary canon and sheds light on the experiences of African Americans during a critical period in American history.