Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, Douglass’s autobiography, was first published in 1845. Douglass tells of his life as a slave in the American South, the cruelty of Christian slaveholders, and how, after learning to read, he finally was able to escape to freedom.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl written in 1861 by Harriet Jacobs is the first slave narrative written by an African American woman. Jacobs tells of the particular problems experienced by women in slavery-sexual exploitation, the separation of mother and children-and makes emotional appeals to her white female reading audience.
Our Nig, written in 1859 by Harriet Wilson, is the first novel by an African American woman. Wilson’s novel focuses on the character of Alfredo, a young mixed-race woman living in the antebellum North who strives to maintain her Christian faith and to become independent from her unkind mistress.
Published in 1853, Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter by William Wells Brown is the first novel by an African American and tells the fictional story of the beautiful, genteel mixed-race daughter of Thomas Jefferson and her experiences in and out of slavery.