Black Women Writers of the 19th Century II

Black Women Writers Through Civil War and Reconstruction

Harriet Wilson's novel Our Nig
The nineteenth century was a formative period in African-American literary and cultural history. Law and practice forbade teaching blacks to read or write. Even after the American Civil War, many of the impediments to learning and literary productivity remained. Nevertheless, more African-Americans than we yet realize turned their observations, feelings, and creative impulses into poetry, short stories, histories, narratives, novels, and autobiographies.

Harriet Wilson (1825-1900)

Considered the first female African-American novelist, Harriet Wilson has also been called the first African-American of either gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. Her novel Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black was published anonymously in 1859 in Boston, Massachusetts; it was not widely read. In 1982, scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. discovered the novel and documented it as the first African-American novel published in the United States.


Amistad: Slave Ship in American Waters

Mende Africans of the Ship Amistad

Despite strong opposition, an illegal slave trade still flourished in certain areas of the world during the first half of the nineteenth century. Africans captured by slave traders were taken to Cuba where they were confined in holding pens in Havana and then sent to work at sugar plantations on the island. Between 1837 and 1839, twenty-five thousand Africans were kidnapped and brought to Cuba. In February 1839, six hundred people from Sierra Leone, or as they called it, Mendeland, were captured and brought to the island nation.

Amistad Mutiny
Staged by Joseph Cinque and his fellow captives.


Maria Chapman and Her Sisters

19th Century Abolitionists: Maria Chapman and Her Sisters

Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885) was described by Lydia Maria Child as: "One of the most remarkable women of the age." Chapman and three of her sisters played vital roles in the abolitionist movement. Maria, best-known of the group, and her sisters worked tirelessly in support of William Lloyd Garrison and his abolitionist paper, The Liberator. They founded an organization, circulated petitions, raised money, wrote and edited numerous publications, and left behind a remarkable correspondence.

abolitionist, author and activist Maria Chapman
Image:Maria Weston Chapman, Daguerreotype, ca. 1846


Underground Railroad in Florida

Early Underground Railroad Sites

The Underground Railroad did not only travel North, away from the plantations of the South to freedom. For almost two centuries before the Civil War, runaway slaves in the colonies of Georgia and Carolina fled south into Florida. From a militia post where freed slaves helped defend St. Augustine against the advancing British to South Florida, some runaways left American soil for freedom on Caribbean islands.

Chief Bowlegs fought against the United States in the War of 1812
Image: Chief Billy Bowlegs
Leader of the Florida Seminoles who fought against the United States during the Second (1835-1842) and Third (1855-1858) Seminole Wars