Black History Month-02/04/2018

Today, I would like to focus on the first African American woman who is believed to have published a novel in the United States.

Harriet E. Wilson was born around 1828, possibly in Milford, NH. When she was 23, she moved to Massachusetts working as a seamstress. In 1851 she married Thomas Wilson, but Wilson abandoned Harriet less than a year later before the birth of their son.

Wilson was living in a poorhouse. She had no choice but to abandon her son and move to Boston to make a living and regain custody of her son. Wilson would write to support herself and her child.


She published her 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 Therein 1859.  Her son died six months later at the age of seven.

The few facts that we know of Wilson all comes from her book. Her story was published by Massachusetts publisher, George C. Rand and Avery.

Wilson died on June 28, 1900.

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It’s day four of Black History Month, and today the spotlight is on a poet by the name of Phillis Wheatley. She was the first African American, and one of the first women to publish poetry in the colonies around 1773.

Phillis was born in West Africa in 1753. She was brought to Massachusetts in 1761 on a slave ship and purchased by John Wheatley. She was the personal servant to his wife. Although slaves weren’t allowed to read and write, Phillis was educated by the Wheatleys.


provided by Google

She learned to speak Latin and Greek, and started writing poetry. Her first poem was written and published in the year of 1767. Phillis later on gained more attention on her book of verses titled, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.


Phillis was a supporter for America’s independence. She wrote poems in honor of President George Washington, and sent one of her works to him in 1775. She was invited to visit him in March 1776 in Washington, and of course she accepted the offer.

In 1768, she wrote to King George III to thank him for repealing the Stamp Act.

Phillis married a free black man name John Peters from Boston in 1778. They had three children together, and unfortunately died as infants. The couple faced many struggles due to their poverty. Phillis kept at it with her work, but she was not able to publish her work due to their poverty.

Sometimes she would take on maid jobs in boarding houses. Not only that, but her husband was imprisoned for debt. Phillis never stopped writing. She was not able to publish her second volume of poems.

On December 5, 1784, Phillis died in her 30’s in Boston, Massachusetts.

Read more about Phillis Wheatley at