USA: first novel by African-American woman published

This video is called MALCOLM X INTERVIEW: Our History was Destroyed By Slavery.

From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the USA:

Prof Co-publishes Book Containing First Novel by a Black American Woman

Newswise — “The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride” by Julia C. Collins was published in 1865 as a serial in the Christian Recorder, the national newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Dr. William L. Andrews at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believes it to be the first novel by a black American woman ever to appear in print.

“This is indisputably the first serialized novel by an African-American woman to be uncovered, and the first that is not grounded in autobiography but is instead a fully-fledged creation of the imagination,” he said.

Andrews, the E. Maynard Adams professor of English and senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Mitch Kachun, associate professor of history at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, have published Collins’ serialized story in book form for the first time, through Oxford University Press (October 2006).

Collins, a schoolteacher who lived in Williamsport, Pa., left few traces in historical records.

“We hope that by publishing Collins’ novel, we might hear from those who know more about her life, including, perhaps, her descendants,” Andrews said.

Kachun noticed the installments of the novel in the Christian Recorder while pursuing unrelated research.

He contacted Andrews, a leading specialist in African-American literature.

Andrews suggested they edit and find a publisher for the novel.

Collins had died of tuberculosis on the verge of completing the novel.

Andrews believed that today’s readers should have what Collins was unable to deliver: a conclusion for “The Curse of Caste.”

Andrews wrote two different endings, either of which he and Kachun believe could have been Collins’ intended conclusion.

They leave it up to the reader to decide whether the story should have a tragic or happy ending.

In the book, the professors preface the story with discussion of the novel’s literary and historical significance.

Essays by Collins, published in the Christian Recorder a year before the novel appeared, are included at the end.

For decades, many literature scholars have taught that “Our Nig,” written by Harriet Wilson in 1859, was the first novel written by a black American woman.

But research has proven that the book is almost entirely autobiographical and therefore not a work of fiction, Andrews said.

In 2002, African-American literature scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University published “The Bondwoman’s Narrative” by Hannah Crafts, which dates to the early 1850s.

Andrews helped Gates investigate the authenticity of the manuscript.

“‘The Bondwoman’s Narrative’ might be the first novel by a black American woman, but no one knows for sure who Hannah Crafts was,” Andrews said.

“We think she was a black woman, but there is no proof of that or even if there ever was a Hannah Crafts. We can’t verify who wrote it.

“By contrast, Julia Collins is a historically traceable and identifiable black American woman,” Andrews said.

Another crucial difference: “The Bondwoman’s Narrative” also seems to be autobiographical.

But with “The Curse of Caste,” Andrews said, “Collins doesn’t say ‘Let me tell you the story of my life.’

She says ‘Let me tell you a story – about the choices black women ought to be able to make in their lives.'”

Set in antebellum Louisiana and Connecticut, Collins’ novel focuses on a beautiful mixed-race mother and daughter whose opportunities for fulfillment through love and marriage are threatened by slavery and caste prejudice.

The daughter, Claire, is unsure of her parentage and history but haunted by the sense that she is somehow different.

The story traces Claire’s journey as she finds love and insights into her ancestry.

Andrews has written or edited more than 40 books, including “The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt” (1980) and “The North Carolina Roots of African American Literature” (2006).

He edited “North American Slave Narratives,” 280 narratives that are part of the historical Web site “Documenting the American South,” created by the UNC Library.

Andrews earned master’s and doctoral degrees from UNC and has taught at the university since 1996.

“William Andrews is the leading scholar of 19th-century African-American literature,” said Harvard’s Gates.

“The work of Andrews and Mitch Kachun on ‘The Curse of Caste’ is a model of judicious and sensitive editing.”

Women writers: here.

Sex in 18th century North America: here.

Phillis Wheatley: here.

1 thought on “USA: first novel by African-American woman published

  1. Sci-Fi based on Harper’s Ferry Incident
    Introduced by Mumia Abu-Jamal

    Bet you didn’t know that Mumia, internationally-acclaimed activist, award-winning journalist, political prisoner and “voice of the voiceless,” is also a self-proclaimed “sci-fi head” as stated in his introduction to the book Fire On the Mountain, by Terry Bisson. The book takes us to a wonderful world created by a turn of events in history whereby John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, thanks to the assistance of Harriet Tubman, was successful.

    Also featured this week are voices of struggle from around the world gathered in the book Liberation Lit.

    Why buy from Leftbooks? This is where your money goes toward the movement for social and economic justice. That’s right, all the proceeds from leftbooks go directly towards the work of activists and organizations working to end repression, war, racism, poverty and oppression. We especially support the work of the Troops Out Now Coalition, the International Action Center and the Bail Out the People Movement (,,

    Check out our latest and remember that, as usual at leftbooks,
    you get FREE SHIPPING*!! (with every order of $45 or more).

    (see bottom of email for details)

    (For more details on the following or to order just click on each item.)

    Fire on the Mountain
    by Terry Bisson

    “Few works have moved me as deeply, as thoroughly, as Terry Bisson’s Fire On The Mountain… With this single poignant story, Bisson molds a world as sweet as banana cream pies, and as briny as hot tears…to read Fire today wrings tears from me, not just at the sheer beauty of his prose, his fertile turn of phrase, but above all for his vision, one born in a revolutionary, and profoundly humanistic, consciousness. … This is a splendid work of imagination, guaranteed to make your spine tingle.” –Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row prisoner and author of Live From Death Row, from the Introduction.

    It’s 1959 in socialist Virginia. The Deep South is an independent Black nation called Nova Africa. The second Mars expedition is about to touch down on the red planet. And a pregnant scientist is climbing the Blue Ridge in search of her great-great grandfather, a teenage slave who fought with John Brown and Harriet Tubman’s guerrilla army.

    Fire on the Mountain is the story of what might have happened if John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry had succeeded–and the Civil War had been started not by the slave owners but the abolitionists.

    Softcover, 208pp

    Liberation Lit

    Edited by Tony Christini and Andre Vltchek

    “What’s Lib Lit? — Library, map, lens, scalpel, compost, chisel, textbook, excavation: voices, images, wrestling, contradicting, confirming, the matter of resistant art and practice.” –Adrienne Rich

    Just published by Mainstay Press, Liberation Lit is an unprecedented anthology of fiction, poetry, essays, criticism, interviews, bringing together voices of struggle from around the world. Among the writers: Doreen Baingana, Eduardo Galeano, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Arundhati Roy, Sandra Cisneros, Audre Lorde, Ishimure Michiko, Winston James, Adrienne Rich, Adetokunbo Abiola, Marge Piercy, Mark Vallen, Margaret Randall, Gloria Anzaldua, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan, and many more.

    This is a wonderful collection with 65 contributers, you can probably find what you are looking for in this tome — to suit any mood or to just peruse. This is huge, literally (quite) and figuratively!

    Cover art is mainly from illustrations of The Masses magazine from early last century, and posters from the WPA Federal Theatre Project.

    Mainstay Press, softcover, 800+ pp

    DVD: In Prison My Whole Life

    This film follows 25 year old William Francome’s investigation into the arrest of Mumia Abu-Jamal, death-row prisoner and award-winning Black Panther journalist. Francome, born on the day of Mumia’s 1981 arrest, engages intellectuals, writers and musicians in an effort to expose the truth about “justice” in the U.S. for Black activists in general and Abu-Jamal in particular.

    The energetic, poetic and deeply moving interviews of Alice Walker, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Noam Chomsky and Steve Earle raise questions about the repercussions and damage of racial injustice not only to those targeted, but to the broader community and culture in the U.S.

    Original score by Robert Del Naja and Neil Davidge (Massive Attack) for 100 Sound Studios.

    Original songs by Snoop Dogg.

    A film by Marc Evans


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.