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African American Women Writers: Novelists, Poets, More

African American women writers have helped to bring the black womans experience to life for millions of readers. Theyve written of what it was like to live in slavery, what Jim Crow America was like, what 20th and 21st century America have been like for black women. On the following pages, youll meet novelists, poets, journalists, playwrights, essayists, social commentators and feminist theorists.  And some wrote autobiographically.  Theyre listed from the earliest to the latest.

She wrote on abolition and other political issues, including starting a newspaper in Ontario urging black Americans to flee to Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. She became a lawyer and a womens rights advocate.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a 19th century African American woman writer and abolitionist, was born to a free black family in a slave state, Maryland. Frances Watkins Harper became a teacher, an anti-slavery activist, and a writer and poet. She was also an advocate of womens rights and was a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association. The writings of Frances Watkins Harper were often focused on themes of racial justice, equality, and freedom.

Granddaughter of James Forten, Charlotte Forten was born into an activist family of free blacks. She became a teacher, and during the Civil War, went to the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina to teach the former slaves freed under Union Army occupation. She wrote of her experiences. She later married Francis J. Grimké, whose mother was a slave and father was slaveowner Henry Grimké, brother of white abolitionist sisters Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké .

Best known for her radicalism, Lucy Parsons supported herself by writing and lecturing within socialist and anarchist circles. Her husband was executed as one of the Haymarket Eight charged with responsibility for what was called the Haymarket Riot. She denied that she had African heritage, claiming only Native American and Mexican ancestry, but shes usually included as an African American,

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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