Harriet E. Wilson (1827?-1863?)
Contributing Editor: Marilyn Richardson
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Some discussion of the reality of free blacks, both in the North and in the South, is useful, along with some background on the abolitionist movement and its literature.
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
While anti-slavery writers agreed about the urgent need to abolish slavery, there was considerable difference of opinion on the role emancipated blacks might be expected/allowed to play in American society. This book points the finger at the so-called liberal North where, even during the height of the abolitionist period, profound issues of caste and class, as well as overt racism, prefigure struggles to come during Reconstruction and up to the present day.
To date, there is only one edition of Our Nig readily available. Gates, as editor, has provided an extensive discussion of these issues in his introductory essay.
Andrews, Sisters of the Spirit, Richardson, Maria W. Stewart, Harper, Iola Leroy, Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, all give excellent insight into black women's nineteenth-century experience, North and South. Three excellent anthologies, Lerner, Black Women in White America, Loewenbert and Bogin, Black Women in 19th Century American Life, and Sterling, We Are Your Sisters, all provide background information that could be useful with this text.
A new article by Barbara A. White "'Our Nig' and the She-Devil: New Information about Harriet Wilson and the `Bellmont Family'" (American Literature 65 [March 1993]: 19-52) clearly demonstrates the autobiographical basis of Our Nig and also may provide students with a splendid model of historical research applied to the interpretation of a text.