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Our Nig, Or, Sketches From the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story White House Paperback – October 10, 2013


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Our Nig, Or, Sketches From the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story White House + Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Dover Thrift Editions) + Uncle Tom's Cabin (Dover Thrift Editions)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 58 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147008032X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1470080327
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,041,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I sat up most of the night reading and pondering the enormous significance of Harriet Wilson's Our Nig." —Alice Walker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

The 1859 novel tracing the life of a mulatto foundling abused by a white family in 19th century New England. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on May 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Though I currently have the 1983 edition with the introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr (whose name is in the introduction for almost every important Af-Am text in circulation, it seems), I plan on getting this latest edition.

Until recently, biographical details on Wilson were limited. Indeed, they seemed to trail off soon after the publication of her book (a death certificate for her son six months after its printing has suggested to some that her call for support went unheard). This introduciton offers new and happier information, showing that Wilson lived a long life--in part as a successful lecturer on the Spiritualist circuit.

In any edition this is a great book. Really, "great" isn't superlative enough to cover how important and interesting it is. But if you're going to buy it, get this edition.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on May 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book was written by a woman who was supposed to be a free Black woman. In fact she was treated like a slave, a Black wage slave. She was oppressed by a family of who were Northern Abolitionists. Yet, she was treated like a slave. Succeeding generations of whites studying the book denied her and her class the ability to write such a book: they claimed the book had to have been written by a white person and that it was a novel, not real.

Millions of Black women who have slaved in white kitchens and cleaning white homes during and since slavery have a spokesperson in Harriet E. Wilson. This book helps us understand not just to pity them, but to understanding their ability to fight back with their minds.
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By "gsibbery" on September 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
The female child of a white female outcast and a black freeman, the author gives a detailed account of what it was like being raised by a white family in the pre-Civil War North of the United States (a household where she was abandoned by her mother at 3). This biography gives a general idea of what a Negro's life in the North was like -- and it was not much different from that life of a slave in the South. The mistress of the house was brutal beyond measure, but many of the other family members were reasonably kind (though not kind of enough to put a stop to the abuse), and it makes one shudder to think of what could have happened in a family who had nothing but Negro-haters in it. Still, she recounts how she got a small measure of schooling, and how she eventually became a Christian (something which the lady of the house -- a Christian herself -- opposed) and her eventual marriage. An upsetting story, it is nevertheless of much more value than "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as it was told from the point of view of the victim and not a sympathetic white.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published in 1859, Our Nig may be the first novel by a black woman. Certainly it's the only narrative we have by a black indentured servant in the antebellum North. A skillful hybrid of autobiographical detail and novelistic conventions, the book was one of several ventures Harriet Wilson engaged in to support herself and her child after her husband deserted her.

Wilson's parents indentured her at the age of six to a New Hampshire family so they could seek work with better luck elsewhere. Unfortunately little Frado (Wilson's fictional name for herself) finds herself in the hands of a sadistic mistress and her equally sadistic daughter. The plot of Our Nig revolves around Frado's terrible experiences in this house.

The irony was that while Frado was nearly perishing from abuse and overwork, New Hampshire abolitionists were delivering rousing anti-slavery speeches nearby. They were only interested in the sufferings of fugitive slaves, not "free" black indentured servants. When Wilson's book was published, they ignored it. Only slave narratives were of use to them. The book quickly disappeared from circulation, not to be rediscovered until over hundred years later.

I found the book to be very powerful, both as an amazing story and as an exposé of prejudice in the righteous North. Wilson, who had only three years of schooling as a child, is a dramatic storyteller.

I'd recommend this Penguin Classics edition in particular. It contains chronologies, a comprehensive introduction and scholarly footnotes. I was surprised to learn that Wilson's continuing life story, after Our Nig, was as fascinating as her years of servitude. She launched a business making and selling "Hair Restorative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Schatzi R. Fry on December 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Frado is the young daughter of a poor white woman and her black husband. After her husband dies, the mother abandons her daughter Frado at the home of a woman in town who is so hard on her servants that she goes through them very quickly. The mother tells Frado she will come back for her in a few days, but she never appears again. Frado is enslaved for the rest of her working life to a woman who works and beats her mercilessly.
Frado's only relief comes from family members who disapprove of this treatment, to include the husband, her mistress's sons and others. Frado is witty and resourceful, finding rest where she can.
I enjoyed the story as an unrelenting portrayal of slavery in the North. Thank God slavery is no longer legal in this country.
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