Iola Leroy (Penquin Classics)
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
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A landmark account of the African American experience during the Civil War and its aftermath
First published in 1892, this stirring novel by the great writer and activist Frances Harper tells the story of the young daughter of a wealthy Mississippi planter who travels to the North to attend school, only to be sold into slavery in the South when it is discovered that she has Negro blood. After she is freed by the Union army, she works to reunify her family and embrace her heritage, committing herself to improving the conditions for blacks in America.
Through her fascinating characters-including Iola's brother, who fights at the front in a colored regiment-Harper weaves a vibrant and provocative chronicle of the Civil War and its consequences through African American eyes in this critical contribution to the nation's literature.
patents for the incandescent light and the water closet (toilet) for railroad cars; he was also a prominent writer for the New York Age. In naming the mother-figure “Harriet,” Harper may have been honoring Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was enjoying a popular resurgence in the 1890s.5 Several characters in Iola Leroy share names with Stowe’s characters: “Tom,” most notably, is a noble-hearted martyr who longs to read; and “Eugene Leroy” and his cousin, “Alfred
subsequent purchaser. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. To my daughter Mary E. Harper, this book is lovingly dedicated. Contents What Is an African American Classic? by HENRY
did not understand it then, but I do now. We used to sing together, and read the Bible when we were alone.” “Do you remember where she came from, and who was her mother?” asked Robert, anxiously. “My dear friend, you must be quiet. The fever has left you, but I will not answer for the consequences if you get excited.” Robert lay quiet and thoughtful for awhile and, seeing he was wakeful, Iola said, “Have you any friends to whom you would like to send a letter?” A pathetic expression flitted
over his face, as he sadly replied, “I haven’t, to my knowledge, a single relation in the world. When I was about ten years old my mother and sister were sold from me. It is more than twenty years since I have heard from them. But that hymn which you were singing reminded me so much of my mother! She used to sing it when I was a child. Please sing it again.” Iola’s voice rose soft and clear by his bedside, till he fell into a quiet slumber. She remembered that her mother had spoken of her
Brown’s Clotel, Or, the President’s Daughter (1853), only a handful of novels by African American authors had appeared: Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black in a Two-Story White House, North (1859, rediscovered in 1982 by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.); and four novels serialized in The Christian Recorder: Julia C. Collins’s The Curse of Caste (1865) and Harper’s own Minnie’s Sacrifice (March–September 1869), Sowing and Reaping: A Temperance Story (August 1876–February