African American Women Writers of the 19th Century
Until recent decades, the thought and perspectives of women were often overlooked in American history and those of African American women even more so. This website helps to correct that problem by highlighting the literary works of female African Americans in the 19th century. This website offers access to 52 works published before 1920 by 37 female African American writers, including poetry, histories and narratives, novels, and autobiographies. In addition to their literary pursuits, these women, some of whom were former slaves, worked in such occupations as domestic servants, teachers, university lecturers, abolitionists, and religious leaders.
The collection includes many notable works such as the first book of poetry by an African American, Poems on Various Subjects, Religions, and Moral by Phillis Wheatley (1773), the first book of essays by an African American, Essays by Ann Plato, and the first novel published by a black person in the U.S., Our Nig by Harriet Wilson (1859). Visitors can browse the works by title, author, or genre (fiction, poetry, biography and autobiography, and essays) or search individual titles or the complete database by keyword.
The site provides short biographies of the authors, but lacks broader historical context. No perspective is provided on how these women fit into the history of the 19th century. Nevertheless, this is a useful collection for researchers and teachers of women and African American history and culture in the 19th century.
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