Donation of a rare copy of the first novel by an African-American woman

PORTSMOUTH, NH (AP) — A rare version of a book believed to be the first novel published in the United States by a black woman has returned to its home state of New Hampshire.

An original first edition of “Our Nig; or Sketches From the Life of a Free Black” was recently donated to New Hampshire’s Black Heritage Trail, 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 a 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 an 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 knocks on people’s doors and doesn’t even know if she would be captured and enslaved.”

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

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