First African American Woman Novelist

Harriet Wilson is considered the first African American of any gender to publish a novel on the North American continent as well as the author of the first novel by an African American woman. Her novel Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black was published anonymously in 1859 in Boston, Massachusetts, and was not widely known. It was re-discovered in 1982 by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., which led to the …Read More...

Former Slave Who Became a Businesswoman

Annie Louise Burton was born a slave in Clayton, Alabama in 1858. She was the daughter of a woman named Nancy, the cook of Mr. and Mrs. William Farrin whose plantation was near Clayton. Annie's father, a white man born in Liverpool, England, owned a plantation that was a long walk from the Farrin plantation. Annie grew up during the Civil War and remembered fondly her early days on the plantation.

Excerpt, Memories of …

Wife of African American Author William Wells Brown

On April 12, 1860 twenty-five year old Anna Elizabeth Gray married William Wells Brown - author of Clotel, the first novel written by an African American in the United States. Anna later published Brown's works under the imprint A.G. Brown. They had one daughter, Clotelle, in 1862.

William Wells Brown (1814-1884) was a prominent African American abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright and historian. After spending the first 25 years of his life in …Read More...

Teacher of Former Slaves in the South

Teaching in the South during the Reconstruction era (1865-1877) took great courage. The women who traveled there to teach often feared for their lives but were determined to empower the freed slaves through literacy.

Image: The Misses Cooke's school room, Freedman's Bureau, Richmond, Va. In Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1866 Nov. 17, Library of Congress

Edmonia Highgate, the daughter of freed slaves, was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1844. She graduated from …Read More...

Conductor on the Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman was an African American abolitionist, humanitarian and Union spy during the Civil War. After escaping from slavery, she made thirteen missions back to the land of her servitude to rescue scores of slaves, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

Image: Painting by Paul Collins:
Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad

She was born Araminta Ross around 1820 the fifth of nine children born to slave parents, …Read More...

Wealthy African American Woman

Amanda America Dickson, the daughter of a slave and her white owner, became one of the wealthiest black women in nineteenth-century America. She was born on November 20, 1849, on the plantation of her father, the famous white agricultural reformer David Dickson in Hancock County, Georgia. Amanda's birth was the product of Dickson's rape of his twelve-year-old slave, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson. At the time, he was forty and the most prosperous planter in the county.