Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black by Harriet E. Wilson (1859)

2 Posted by - July 26, 2018 - BLACK ART & LITERATURE, Black First, LATEST POSTS

: Sketches from the Life of a Free is an autobiographical novel by . The novel is considered the first novel to be published by an African-American woman on the North American continent. The novel was published in 1859 and rediscovered in 1982 by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


The beginning of the story opens talking about Mag Smith. She is a woman who has been seduced and left with a child born out-of-wedlock. When the child dies Smith moves away where no one knows her. In the new town she meets a black man named Jim and falls in love. She resists him in the beginning but later realizes it is useless. The two marry and have two children. Her husband becomes sick and dies and leaves her to provide for the children. After he dies, Mag marries his business partner Seth, who takes care of the family, until they figure out that they cannot care for the girls.

They decide to send one of the daughters (Frado) to leave with a family called the Belmont’s.  Frado believes they will return to pick her back up at a later date. The Bellmont’s figure out that Mag is not returning to pick Frado up, so Mrs. Bellmont puts the daughter in the kitchen cooking, cleaning and doing other menial chores. Frado ends up settling into the home with the Bellmonts. However, Mrs. Bellmont and her daughter Mary become Frado’s chief tormentors. Day and night, they make Frado’s life miserable with their constant demands, beatings, and psychological assaults. To make matters worse, Mrs. Bellmont assigns Frado drab and unhealthy sleeping quarters. One afternoon on the way home from school, Mary tries to force Frado into a stream but falls in instead. Mary runs home to tell her mother that Frado pushed her into the water. Frado receives a whipping from Mrs. Bellmont while Jack tries to defend the girl.

Frado runs away; Mr. Bellmont, Jack and James search for her. After she is found she tells James that if God made him, Aunt Abby and Mrs. Bellmont white, then she dislikes God for making her black. Read more here.





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