Harriet Wilson: Contribution to American Literature

Also Read

      Harriet Wilson (1807-1870), was abandoned in the home of the Bellmont's where she becomes an indentured servant. She is ill-treated cruelly by her white mistress Mrs. Bellmont and her daughter. At the age of the eighteen, she leaves the Bellmonts and marries an African American who claims to be a runaway slave. She has a child by him, and is then deserted. Then, she discovers that his claim is false. She is forcibly separated from her child. She experienced dire poverty and bad health.

      Wilson was the first African American woman to publish her life into an autobiographical novel in the United states-Our Nig: or, Sketcher from the Life of a Free Black, (1859) in a two stored white house, North, showing that “slavery’s shadows fall even there”, in the North among indentured servants and other victims of racism. The novel is sentimental in its nature and also a ‘realistic’ one. It is an additional irony that she remains unnamed for over a hundred years as the author of her own work. For a long time the ‘namelessness’ is the central theme in African American writing. The novel realistically dramatizes the relationship between a whiteman and a black man, and also depicts the difficult life of a black servant in a wealthy Christian household. Formerly, it was thought to be autobiographical but it is now understood to be a work of fiction. Like Jacobs, Wilson did not publish under her own name (Our Nig was ironic), and her work was over looked until recently. The same can be said of the work of most of the women writers of the era. Noted African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - in his role of spearheading the black fiction project- reissued Our Nig in 1983.

Previous Post Next Post