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Our Nig

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,437 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Our Nig is the tale of a mixed-race girl, Frado, abandoned by her white mother after the death of the child's black father. Frado becomes the servant of the Bellmonts, a lower-middle-class white family in the free North, while slavery is still legal in the South, and suffers numerous abuses in their household. Frado's story is a tragic one; having left the Bellmonts, she e ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published December 28th 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published 1859)
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Roots by Alex HaleyUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher StoweKindred by Octavia E. ButlerIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet JacobsThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Books about American slavery
42nd out of 223 books — 249 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Best Books of the 19th Century
316th out of 759 books — 4,430 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ralowe Ampu
i have a narratological fetish for foundational texts. early early literature. what happens in such documents is very close to being the first of its kind, it has nothing else to imitate, it has no community of kind. it's in dialogue with itself. this is likely the first novel written by a free slave/black person in the united states. the author is also a woman. the figure in this context is put through a melodrama of especial helplessness mean to churn and kindle the spark of compassion in whit ...more
Rita Reinhardt
I am on the fence about literature developed for the sole purpose of acquiring monetary benefits. Now don’t get me wrong, I know this young lady went through a whole lot (her son took ill, her husband passed away, and she needed money ASAP) however I’m not necessarily captivated by this tale. I have my reasons:

1. Great Imagery: The author gave a great account of a household full of abuse and sadness, as do most books capturing slavery…however, there is just one tiny problem…THIS IS NOT A BOOK AB
This is a terrific piece of literature and the connections made from the piece to Harriet E. Wilson's actual history are undoubtedly intriguing. However, I wasn't too interested.
This 1859 [slave] narrative/novel seems to have been written solely for the support of a free-black indentured servant of sorts who has made her way out after a youth of ill treatment leading to an adulthood of ill-health. The main character is Frado, who has encountered many misfortunes and ill health that prevent the sorts of hard labor that characterized her upbringing among the terrible Bellmonts. It describes the background to the ill treatment that she received, and, through much sentiment ...more
Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black is an autobiographical slave narrative by Harriet E. Wilson. It was published in 1859 and rediscovered in 1982 by professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. It is considered the first novel published by an African-American on the North American continent.

I discovered this book when I lived in New Hampshire.She was from Milford,NH.,a quaint little town with wonderful Antiques & Historical sites.The Oval is the town center, with the Pillsbury Bandstand as
Janette Williams
A fascinating fusion of two literary models of the nineteenth century, the sentimental novel and the slave narrative, Our Nig, apart from its historical significance, is a deeply ironic and highly readable work, tracing the trials and tribulations of Frado, a mulatto girl abandoned by her white mother after the death of the child's black father, who grows up as an indentured servant to a white family in nineteenth-century Massachusetts.

This novel was a pioneering work by an African-American female author, but it basically disappeared for over a hundred years in terms of any recognition by reviewers, literary historians, or subsequent novelists. When Henry Louis Gates, Jr., published this edition in 1983, it was a great addition to our literary and historical heritage. Wilson's work still strikes me as genre-bending and expectation-upending. She shows in antebellum US society the "shadows of slavery" in the North, where a free ...more
Sarah Echo
It’s extremely important to note Harriet Wilson was most likely the first African American to publish a novel. And yet, this book remains largely unknown to the reading public. It deals with the life of an indentured servant in the northern United States, and her experience with the racism of her white neighbors and employers. Wilson wrote the book for financial purposes: she wanted to be able to support her infant son. Unfortunately, her son died six months after the novel was published. With t ...more
This is one of the first novels written by an African American woman (literary scholars are still arguing over whose was "first" and what is meant by "novel"; they're funny that way). It's more interesting as a historical document and literary artifact than as a pleasure read, but that is no reason not to read it, especially if you are interested in black history.

Penguin Classics puts out some really good annotated / scholarly-yet-readable editions, and this one is no exception. The notes and su
It is a relief to find a cover that nearly reflects the probable appearance of an African American heroine, a cover that is nearly impossible to find when searching for copies of Our Nig. The racist insistence on pretending that racial mixing did not result in African Americans who looked Euro-American before the Civil War means that students will have misunderstood the atmosphere and events of the book before they've even read it, misled as soon as they've looked at the cover. As horrendous as ...more
Our Nig is the first novel written by an African-American woman, Harriet Wilson, whose harrowing early life provides the backbone for the story of a little girl called Frado who is abandoned by her desperately poor mother and stepfather. They conspire to leave her with a family in the neighborhood too crazy to keep a servant, who therefore could use an unofficially indentured six-year-old to function as housemaid. And so Frado spends her childhood working her fingers to the bone and sleeping is ...more
I loved this ‘semi autobiography’ for its post colonial dialect and tremendous storytelling. The sketching of the ‘characters’ and the emotional pull on the senses relating to highly offensive affairs was challenging, but put in perspective engaging. While a few of the family members extend some compassion towards the young girl; in comforting vestiges such as telling the child “better times are coming” after she’s been brutally kicked and beaten by the mistress who extends little compassion tow ...more
Although containing some flashes of interesting writing at times--the deathbed chapter is powerful, if a little melodramatic--this brief autobiographical novel is mostly a garbled, rambling mess. However, there are some redeeming qualities. Gates' introduction and endnotes are fascinating scholarship, and the novel is important for its historical firsts. The narrative does give us some insight into the life of a black woman in the antebellum Northeast (and a very obvious metaphor for the state o ...more
Unknown to many, Harriet Wilson was the first female African American to publish a novel. Wilson published the novel in 1859 to support herself and her child after her husband abandoned the family. Our Nig, semi autobiographical novel tells of Fado, a mixed-race young girl abandoned by her caucasian mother after the death of her African American father.

Abandoned by her mother and stepfather, Frado is left as an indentured servant to a family with a violent mistress as well as a daughter just a
Our Nig is probably one of the most important novels to look at in American history ... I mean, come on; it was the first one written by an African American woman! Unfortunately, Our Nig is also just a bit on the boring side.

Boring is a bit harsh, because if we consider the novel in the time that it was written, it was revolutionary ... it has a free African American woman radically speaking her mind and telling a horrifying tale about the cruelties of Northern women. This is the kind of stuff t
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Honestly, I don't know if I've ever been so pissed off after reading a novel. It was going so well, another compelling slave story, this one about a young girl whose mother abandons her outside a wealthy family's home and they decide to take her in as their house servant. The short novel describes her treatment in the house (which is bad) and the few family members who appreciate her (but don't do anything) and it basically goes on like this for the entire book.

Now, this is a story of the girl'
Deidre Valentine
Many slaves in the antebellum South braved underground escape routes mapped north for freedom. The dream of self-ownership, work with pay and without lash or whip, made the high risk journey worthwhile or so I thought. Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black in a Two-Story White House, North. Showing that Slavery's Shadows Fall Even There (1859) is an autobiographical telling of a horrific sort. There was no escaping the torments of prejudice for Blacks born free or enslaved in Anteb ...more
I read this book more for its historical significance than for enjoyment. Knowing that it is autobiographical gave an interesting perspective.

Most of the book is how Frado was mistreated as a servant when she was young. The book brings you in and breaks your heart. How anyone could be treated in such a way because of the color of their skin. Although this books also shows that not everyone thought that way and there were some compassionate souls that valued every life.

I was put off by the endin
This short, descriptive, shameful and shocking tale is a must to read. It follows the story of a woman out of wedlock, who becomes pregnant, the child dies and the woman is forced to leave her town. She moves on and marries a black man and is ostracised by society, and what happens to her mixed-race daughter Frado, who eventually stands up to one of her violent oppressor in America in the 1800s.

The in-humane treatment of these characters is a bolt and a sad reminder of America's treatment of bla
I feel kind of bad for giving this book only three stars; it makes a really good point and the author was a daring writer for her times ... it was just too repetitive. At some points I felt as though I was reading one chapter over and over again.

It is about a half-black girl named Frado. She is abandoned by her white mother with the Bellmont's, who she is forced to work for until she is eighteen. Some members of the family are kind to her, but the mother is especially cruel and she is treated f
I have a different edition than this.

I have to say that on a personal level, I hated this book. Some people either are, or come across as, unlikeable. The first person narrator of this book has that unfortunate distinction.

On a historical level, however, it fills an important gap. There are slave narratives in numbers, and there are stories told about antebellum life that include slaves to one degree or another. The life of a free black at the time is rarely discussed, either from the point of
This story is slightly fictional and very powerful. It gives good insight into what being a woman of color was like in 19th century New England. It will shock you and make you think twice about what you thought you knew. It's not a happy story by any means but an important one in the literary canon. Scholars of women's history, African-American history and working class history should read this story
Caesar Warrington
OUR NIG is a well-done but upsetting story of a mixed race child abandoned by her white mother to the physical and emotional cruelties from the white matriarch of an 1830s New England household.

Originally published in 1859 and considered to be the "first African-American novel," Harriet E. Wilson's OUR NIG was quite an unusual book for its time. Unlike most other stories on the subject of black Americans from that era, it is an autobiographical novel based on the author's own experience growing
This happens to be the first novel written by a an African American woman. The author, Harriet Wilson, also happens to have been born in the town of Milford, NH (where I currently live!). It was actually published in 1859, but was largely forgotten until Henry Louis Gates rediscovered it in the early 1980s. It seems that Milford, NH was the site of several abolitionist conventions in the 19th century and received many famous visitors including the likes of Frederick Douglass. Milford, NH was a p ...more
Our Nig: or, Sketches from the life of a free Black
By: Harriet E. Wilson
176 pages
ISBN13: 9780142437773

This book is about a African American orphan who a slave and she belongs to a rich family. They made her work alot and hard. She was also abused. Frado, the orphan, was really a free black, but she was only an orphan, and was left behind by her mother. The family that took her in treats her badly. The mother treats her worse than the other though.
This book is really sad and really helps you un
M Pereira
This is a horrifying book. In a way it sort of reminds me of Candide (which I recently read) in that the plight just gets worse and worse, but there is no irony or enlightenment parody here. It is the authentic historical experience of a woman's perspective overlooked by many. I recommend this book to everyone.
Jarred Stancil
A very under appreciated book. I do wish more people read this in high school or in other setting. Perhaps it could be taught in conjunction with Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Carmen Hunt
A must read. The truth is painful and Our Nig is a harrowing account of a young girl's life that must never be forgotten.
This is a remarkable addition to American literature. As the overview states, Wilson wrote this in the late 1800s, but it wasn't (re)discovered until nearly 100 years later. It's a fictionalized memoir. Her journey from indentured servitude into self-actualized adulthood is amazing to me. Writing what she wrote, how she wrote, when she wrote it ... astounding. If you decide to give this book a try, please spend some time reading all the forward and afterward materials. The background information ...more
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Traditionally considered the first female African-American novelist as well as the first African American of any gender to publish a novel on the North American continent. Her novel Our Nig was published in 1859 and rediscovered in 1982.

The daughter of Joshua Green, an African-American "hooper of barrels", and Margaret Ann (or Adams) Smith, a washerwoman of Irish ancestry. Her father died when she
More about Harriet E. Wilson...

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“Mr. Bellmont raised his calm, determined eye full upon her, and said, in a decisive manner: "You shall not strike, or scald, or skin her, as you call it, if she comes back again. Remember!” 0 likes
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