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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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SEPTEMBER 24, 1825–FEBRUARY 20, 1911

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1825. She was an activist, poet, and author. Orphaned at three years old, she was raised and educated by her uncle, the Reverend William Watkins. Watkins was an African American civil rights activist who heavily influenced Harper’s work.

Harper is best remembered for her poetry and novels, which focused on the injustice and cruelty faced by Black Americans, especially Black women. Her best-known poem, “Bury Me in a Free Land,” speaks of a desire to live in a country without slavery. Harper’s most successful books were the collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) and the novel Iola Leroy (1892). Iola Leroy is one of the first published novels by an African American woman and is notable for its pro-Black and pro-woman themes.

Harper also lectured about abolition and women’s rights. In 1896, she cofounded the National Association of Colored Women with Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell, among others. She died in 1911 at the age of 85.

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