Rare Copy of First Novel by African American Woman Donated

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A rare version of a book considered the first novel published in the U.S. by a Black woman has returned to her home state of New Hampshire.

An original first edition of Harriet Wilson’s “Our Nig; or Sketches From the Life of a Free Black” was recently donated to Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, WMUR-TV reports.

The book was hand-delivered to the organization by a retired librarian in California who found the novel in a family safe, according to the station.

The organization plans to display the book at its headquarters in Portsmouth after it undergoes some minor restoration.

JerriAnne Boggis, the organization’s executive director, said the largely autobiographical work, which Wilson wrote while living in Boston in 1859, represents an act of courage.

The novel tells the story of Frado, a Black girl who is abused and overworked as the indentured servant to a New England family.

“She sold them door to door, and all during that time when the Fugitive Slave Act was in place,” Boggis told WMUR-TV. “So, she’s knocking at people’s doors and not even sure if she would be captured and taken into slavery.”

Wilson was born in Milford, New Hampshire in 1825 and a statue in the town’s Bicentennial Park honors her. She died in 1900 in a Massachusetts hospital.

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