Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins

(1825–1911) social reformer, lecturer, poet; born in Baltimore, Md. Born free in a slave city, she was raised by an abolitionist uncle and was well enough educated that by 1845 she published her first volume of poetry. She took up teaching sewing by 1850, but in 1854 she gave her first antislavery lecture; she would continue to give such lectures throughout the Northeast. She also gave recitations of her poems, and published her second volume, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854), which soon made her the best-known African-American poet of the era. She also published articles against slavery and a short story, "The Two Offers" (1859), probably the first such published work by any African-American. After her husband of four years (1860–64) died, she returned to lecturing on a variety of social causes, stressing the need for temperance, education, and morality among her fellow African-Americans. She was active in various organizations, including the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Women (1896), and in her later years, she also took up the cause of women's rights. Her extensive writings—including more volumes of poetry, a travel book, and a novel—no longer have much literary status but they were important in providing a new image of and for African-Americans.
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Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins, by Elizabeth Amnions, 2.