Literature

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825 to free parents. A few years later, she was orphaned. Harper received her education at a school for free African-Americans run by her uncle, William Watkins. The school was located at the present day site of the Baltimore Convention Center.

At the age of 13, Harper’s formal education came to an end when she took a job as a nursemaid.

Harper’s first publication was a collection of poetry and prose entitled Autumn Leaves. It was published while she was a teenager. Harper moved to Philadelphia. She published another volume of poems entitled Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1857). This work sold over 10,000 copies within its first five years of publication. In 1860, Harper married the love of her life, Fenton Harper.  Continue reading

Anna Ella Carroll

Anna Ella Carroll

Anna Ella Carroll

More than a century following her death, after being ignored, oppressed, and–literally–erased from history, Anna Ella Carroll is finally getting the last word. Carroll was an intriguing and atypical 19th century woman who emerged from the male-dominated realm of war, politics, and diplomacy.

As a key military strategist, Presidential advisor, and “unofficial” member of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet, Carroll was probably the most powerful woman in American during the Civil War. Biographers note that she could “scheme, connive, and maneuver as well as any man.”  Continue reading

Briton Hammon

Briton Hammon Papers

Briton Hammon Papers

On a December day in 1747 Briton Hammon, a slave to Major John Winslow of Marshfield, Massachusetts, walked out of town with, as he put it, `an Intention to go a voyage to sea.’ Tucked into the sandy bight of Cape Cod Bay, some thirty miles south of Boston, and reeking of tidal flats and Stockholm tar, Marshfield was a minor star in the galaxy of Britain’s commercial empire, and only a short walk from Plymouth, where Hammon shipped himself the next day `on board of a Sloop, Capt. John Howland, Master, bound to Jamaica and the Bay’ of Campeche for logwood.

Experienced at shipboard work, as were approximately 25 percent of the male slaves in coastal Massachusetts during the 1740s, Hammon had not run away. But like all black people in early America who wrought freedom where they could, nurtured it warily, and understood it as partial and ambiguous at best, Hammon seized the moment.   Continue reading

Benjamin Griffith Brawley

Benjamin Griffith Brawley

Benjamin Griffith Brawley

Benjamin Brawley (1882-1939) was a prominent African American author and educator. He studied at Atlanta Baptist College, University of Chicago, and Harvard, and he taught at Atlanta Baptist College, Howard University, and Shaw University. Women of Achievement (c1919) is one of Brawley’s numerous books and articles on African American culture. Brawley also published widely in literary studies.

Several of his books were considered standard college texts, including The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States (1918) and New Survey of English Literature (1925).

Born in 1882 in Columbia, South Carolina, Brawley was the second son of Edward McKnight Brawley and Margaret Dickerson Brawley. He studied at Atlanta Baptist College (renamed Morehouse College), graduating in 1901, earned his second BA in 1906 from the University of Chicago, and received his Master’s degree from Harvard University in 1908. Brawley taught in the English departments at Atlanta Baptist College, Howard University, and Shaw University.  Continue reading

Venice Tipton Spraggs

Chief of the Chicago Defender’s Washington Bureau, in 1947 Spraggs was initiated into Theta Sigma Phi, the national professional and honorary fraternity for women in journalism, the first black member in the 37-year history of the organization.

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