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Our Nig: Or, Sketches From the Life of a…
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Our Nig: Or, Sketches From the Life of a Free Black (original 1859; edition 1983)

by Harriet E. Wilson (Author)

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625531,566 (3.44)14
The 1859 novel tracing the life of a mulatto foundling abused by a white family in 19th century New England.
Member:peopleslibrary
Title:Our Nig: Or, Sketches From the Life of a Free Black
Authors:Harriet E. Wilson (Author)
Info:Vintage (1983), Edition: First Soft Cover Edition, 240 pages
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Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black by Harriet E. Wilson (1859)

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Showing 5 of 5
I found the first few chapters hard to read or get into. Once Frada is with the Belmonts the tone of the text changes slightly or maybe I was just more into it.
I like this book, surprisingly. I was a bit worried in the beginning that the novel would follow the 'tragic mulatto' trope and while there are certainly elements of tragedy, Wilson seems to agree with me that blackness is a zero sum game. Mixed race isn't really a viable category for the purposes in which 'race' is used. The entire purpose of 'race' being to separate and elevate whites, everyone else is in effect a 'nigger'.
Love the feminist indictment of both black patriarchy and white abolitionism. Powerful condemnation of the abolitionist movement. Abolitionists were usually supporters of racism, just not slavery.
Fairly powerful condemnation of Christianity as basically for white folks, which I think is still valid. I've never understood the adoption of the religion of those that enslaved your ancestors by the Diaspora. ( )
  LoisSusan | Dec 10, 2020 |
2nd copy - backshelf
  Lana270 | Jul 24, 2020 |
What it says on the box. An autobiographical novel, telling the early lifestory of Alfrado/Frado/"Nig", abandoned by her white mother and black father to a family where she was raised as an indentured servant. There's Free and then there's free. As a child, Frado can only dream of being taken to live with the son who most sympathises with her (and indeed would take her if he weren't so ill); she isn't free to attend church or even to openly read the Bible she's been given; it's not until she's eighteen that she can even begin to choose where to live and work, and even this hardly guarantees a comfortable life.

Available from Project Gutenberg. ( )
  zeborah | Jun 5, 2013 |
Wilson's auto-biographical novel is perhaps not great literature, but does keep one's interest and reveals volumes about the society in which she lived. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in our nation's history. ( )
  grundlecat | Nov 12, 2010 |
Henry Louis Gates's introduction to my edition (2002, from Vintage) likes to trumpet the fact that Our Nig is the first known novel written by an African-American and published in America (the continents, not the country). I suspect, however, that if it was the seventh, we'd be much less interested in it. The characters, even Frado, the protagonist, are all thin caricatures (though most of them are good for a joke or two, which helps alleviate that). It does deal with some interesting notions (especially the blindness of white abolitionists in the North), but what Wilson chooses to focus on is often strangely arbitrary: we get the marital shenanigans of Frado's white relatives in excruciating detail, whereas Frado's own marriage happens in two very short pages.

Gates's critical apparatus is really focused on the autobiographical components to the novel, and though they are considerable, the fact that Wilson published a novel and not an autobiography ought to count for something, I think. The introduction spends a lot of time desperately trying to convince the reader that the Harriet E. Wilson of Boston who wrote this novel is the same of the Harriet E. Wilson of Boston who was a seamstress at the same time, which seems fairly self-evident to me, while the endnotes try to match every character to a historical figure and complain vociferously when they can't. Also annoying is the fact that endnotes are not actually indicated in the text, so the reader just has to guess there might be some referring to a specific page and check. I suspect anyone interested in Our Nig would be better off with the new Penguin Classics edition.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Dec 4, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harriet E. Wilsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ellis, R.J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foreman, P. GabrielleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foreman, P. GabrielleEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitts, Reginald H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitts, Reginald H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, Barbara A.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
In memory of Marguerite Elizabeth Howard Coleman and Gertrude Helen Redman Gates
Dedication
This second edition of OUR NIG is dedicated to Pauline Augusta Coleman Gates and Henry Louis Gates Sr.
First words
Lonely Mag Smith! See her as she walks with downcast eyes and heavy heart. It was not always thus.
Quotations
Religion was not meant for niggers
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The 1859 novel tracing the life of a mulatto foundling abused by a white family in 19th century New England.

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