Center for New England Culture Celebrates Publication of Harriet Wilson Book
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
December 12, 2007
The Center for New England Culture at UNH celebrated the publication of “Harriet
Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing, and Region” on Dec. 7 in the
Milne Special Collections, Dimond Library.
The event included a discussion with the editors and contributors. Published
by the UNH Press/University Press of New England, the editors are JerriAnne
Boggis, director of the Harriet Wilson Project; Eve Allegra Raimon, associate
professor of arts and humanities at the University of Southern Maine; and Barbara
White, professor emerita of women’s studies at UNH.
With a foreword by noted scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., the W. E. B. Dubois
Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, the collection is the first
devoted to Wilson and her novel. It includes essays that seek to understand
Wilson within New England and New England as it might have appeared to Wilson
and her contemporaries. Contributors include prominent historians, literary
critics, psychologists, librarians, and diversity activists.
"This is a thought-provoking collection that provides valuable new historical
context and advances current scholarly discussions on Wilson and her work and,
wonderfully, offers a selection of more personal writings and conversations
from people local to Milford and associated with the Harriet Wilson Project.
These final essays demonstrate the powerful connections Wilson's contemporary
readers make between her story and their lives and sense of culture and history
in New Hampshire now," said Dana Nelson, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor
of English and American Studies, Vanderbilt University.
In the mid-19th century, Harriet E. Wilson, an enterprising woman of mixed
racial heritage, wrote an autobiographical novel describing the abuse and servitude
endured by a young black girl in the North. Originally published in Boston
in 1859 and “lost” until its 1983 republication by Gates, “Our
Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black” is generally considered
the first work of fiction written by a black woman published in the United
Wilson’s New England joins other critical works in the emerging field
known as the New Regionalism in resurrecting historically hidden ethnic communities
in rural New England and exploring their erasure from public memory. It offers
new literary and historical interpretations of “Our Nig” and responds
to renewed interest in Wilson’s account of servitude and racial discrimination
in the North.