Harriet E. Adams Wilson Bio

Writer (1828-1870)

The 1850 federal census lists a 22-year-old Black woman named Harriet Adams living with the Samuel Boyle family in Milford, New Hampshire.

Harriet married Thomas Wilson in 1851. He was a free Black man, pretending to be a fugitive slave from Virginia. He earned money by lecturing on the horrors of slavery. The couple had a son, George Mason Wilson, in 1852. Thomas Wilson deserted his family. Because of the physical and emotional abuse she received from her employers, she was unable to work. She lost custody of her son. She started writing to earn money to get him back. Her son died five-and one-half months after her book was published.

Harriet E. Adams Wilson Bio

Harriet Wilson’s book, published at her own expense, is considered to be the first novel published by an African American woman. The book did not sell well. This could be due to the controversial nature of the book. It is the story of a Black indentured servant in the North who suffers the same physical and emotional abuse of slaves in the South. The book is modeled on the slave narrative. She registered the copyright of her novel on August 18, 1859.