Saturday, February 19, 2011

Frances E.W. Harper: Woman of the 19th Century

Hi, class,

This week, we will be commemorating the centennial of Frances E. W. Harper's death (February 22, 1911) and celebrating her life during Tuesday's class meeting, as well as finishing our discussion of Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig. I will be bringing in either cupcakes or cake for our celebration!*

On Tuesday, 2/22, you will be writing your second literary analysis essay, which will focus on Our Nig. I will provide you with a reflection on Our Nig, asking you to keep in mind our discussion of Harper's short story, "The Two Offers" and our discussion of Emersonian self-reliance (I will provide a quote from Emerson for you to use as a framework for your essay). 

Please bring your notes on Our Nig as well as "The Two Offers" to Tuesday's class so that you can respond thoughtfully and comprehensively. Links to these readings are on the blog post from February 2, so if you need to annotate fresh copies, please do so.

On Thursday, February 24, we will be looking at the Lincoln readings ("Gettysburg Address" and "Second Inaugural Address") as well as the two post-Civil War Harper speeches ("We Are All Bound Up Together" and "The Great Problem to be Solved") as we move into the Reconstruction Era and consider how the preoccupations of African-Americans moved from strategies for the abolition of slavery to strategies for becoming full participants in American society.

Links to these four readings are also on the February 2 blog post below, so make sure you have them by Thursday's class, along with highlighted passages of significance. 

In the coming weeks, we will continue our look at how black intellectuals (radicals and moderates) advanced the critical conversation about black equality as they identified and negotiated strategies for black progress in the midst of the ongoing struggle for acknowledgment of black humanity. 

If you have time, I would like you to look at a few of the speeches listed below--obviously, we will not be able to discuss them all in-depth, but you should certainly be aware of these major 19th century contributors to black intellectual thought--you will see certain "resonances" in some of our own 20th and 21st century rhetoric:

Frederick Douglass, "The Composite Nation" (1869)
Ferdinand Barnett, "Race Unity" (1879)
Frederick Douglass, "On Woman Suffrage" (1888)
Ida B. Wells, "This Awful Slaughter" (1909)

Finally, we will begin our reading of Nella Larsen's Passing the week after next (March 1) as we move into literary modernism and the emergence of Larsen as a major "black" writer of the era known today as the "Harlem Renaissance." 

All best,

Prof. Williams 

*I will find a way for us to manage this without eating in class--lol!


  1. John E. Bruce,"Reasons Why the Colored American Should Go to Africa"....I am Nigerian American, I should go to Africa....."A Piece of Paper"....I'm a piece of paper lying on the floor just a piece of paper, nothing more naked as a "blue" jay since the day I'm born empty and forgotten.....then He saw me lying wasted on the ground stepped on all my life lost but now I'm found He reached down and touched me held me in His hand now I know my purpose now I understand....Just a piece of paper, Blind once, now I see~ He took out His pen and wrote LOVE all over me! Changed my whole existence! Transformed me, and Wham! My life now has meaning, 'Cause of Whose I am!........Jennifer Cobb