Frances E. W. Harper

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"The Slave Mother"


Although Frances Harper was not born into a slave family in 1825 in Baltimore, Maryland, she nevertheless suffered from the oppressive slave laws and rampant discrimination of the time. Her mother died when she was three, falling into the care of her aunt and uncle. Until the age of thirteen, she attended the free school for colored children in which her uncle, Rev. William Watkins, taught. Despite the many trying times that she underwent and survived, her natural curiosity and gift for writing distinguished from her peers. The prose and poetry that she has written were included in the anthology, Forest Leaves. For instance, one of her early essays was on Christianity, a subject which remained a vital part of her life.

In her early adult life, she moved around in the free states of Ohio and Pennsylvania where she worked as a teacher.

While teaching at Little York, she was greatly bothered by the inequities and sufferings that her people had to suffer under the slave laws and resolved to take part in the effort to abolish slavery. She became active in the Anti-Slavery movement in the 1850's by using her gift for language as lecturer. At one time in her career as a lecturer, she made her home in Philadelphia "at the station of the Underground Rail Road, where she frequently saw passengers and their melting tales of suffering and wrong, which intensely increased their sympathy in their behalf."* Even during the Civil War, she wrote prolifically, hoping to contribute to the cause of freedom. The writing she produced during the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's assassination further reveals her eloquence in expressing her hopes and disappointments with the progress of the fight for equality. Harper continued arguing for freedom, equality and reforms...