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Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: A Pioneer On the Entrepreneurial, Literary and Astral Planes — Harriet E. Wilson (Contest)
Wednesday, April 19th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Debra Guyette!

Harriet was born Harriet Adams on March 15, 1825 of mixed-race heritage in Milford New Hampshire. Her mother was an Irish washerwoman. Her father was of African-American and Indian heritage and made barrels. Orphaned by her mother after her father’s death the courts made Harriet an indentured servant to the Hayward family until she was eighteen. In 1851, she married a sailor, named Thomas Wilson and bore a son named George. Wilson died at sea and Harriet and her son went to live on the county Poor Farm.

Not without resources, in 1857 she produced and sold a line of hair care products which her ads claimed to be the real thing for anyone looking to have good hair. Unlike Annie Malone and Madame C.J. Walker, Harriet’s products weren’t targeted only to African-Americans. From 1860 to 1861 she was able to distribute along the east coast by partnering with a white druggist.

Two years later, she wrote an autobiographical novel, Our Nig, in order to make money for her sick son’s health care. He died in 1860. With the advent of the Civil War, her sales dwindled when her partner sold his business.

By 1867, she had become known in Spiritualist circles as “the colored medium. The Boston Spiritualist newspaper, “Banner of Light,”  called Harriet “Boston’s earnest and eloquent colored medium.” From 1867 through the 1880s, she spoke all throughout New England at camp meetings, spiritualist conventions, in theaters, meeting houses and in private homes throughout New England. Her speaking engagements often placed her on programs alongside other medium/spiritualists like Cora L.V. Scott and Andrew Jackson Davis. Harriet also made house calls and held medical consultations as a Spiritualist nurse and healer (“clairvoyant physician”).

She married again in 1870, this time to a pharmacist named John Gallatin Robinson. The marriage ended in 1877 although no divorce has been recorded. From 1879 to 1897, Harriet worked as the housekeeper of a boardinghouse in the South End of Boston where she rented out rooms, collected rents and provided basic maintenance.

On June 28, 1900, Hattie E. Wilson died in Quincy Massachusetts at the Quincy Hospital.

Today, Harriet is best known for “Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black,” published in September 5, 1859 anonymously by a firm in Boston. The cover page of Our Nig reads “Our Nig, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black in a two-story white house, North, showing that slavery’s shadow falls even there.” It was felt because of her critique of Northern racism the book did not do well as Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852. The rediscovery of Our Nig by author/historian Henry Louis Gates brought Harriet into prominence in 1981. He declared hers was the first novel written by an African-American woman. This has been debated because Our Nig is said to be more autobiographical than fiction. The novel is in the public domain and can be read for free here:

In any case, once again I learned another woman proved she would not be hemmed in by the limitations placed on her by society because of her race and gender.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card share your thoughts about Harriet in the comments.

“Take Me to the Water”
by Michal Scott from Silver Soldiers

Silver Soldiers

SILVER SOLDIERS: A BOYS BEHAVING BADLY ANTHOLOGY will satisfy the reader who craves stories with older alpha male heroes—those salt-and-pepper hotties with crow’s feet earned through rugged training and years of combat. Former soldiers finding their footing after their first careers, or current soldiers nearing the end of their military careers. They’re ready to find the right partner to put down roots, ones who aren’t afraid of scars and rough edges.

Pre-Order your copy here!

Excerpt from “Take Me to the Water”…

Weeksville Third Baptist Church glistened and glittered in 1880’s homemade Christmas regalia. Beribboned holly swags and fragrant pine cones infused the sanctuary with seasonal joy. Seasonal joy that missed the mark with Ambrose Stewart.

He remained ramrod-straight in the last pew despite the minister’s personal invitation for Ambrose to come forward for prayer. He refused the offer with a smile and a shake of his head.

The choir sang the hymn of invitation.

Take me to the water to be baptized.

He winced as the song took him back to that night when he and Hephzibah had sung those words to each other in a wonder-filled coupling of cock and pussy.

Several penitents came forward and stood before the smiling minister as the song continued.

None but the righteous shall see God.

Grumbling and gasping parishioners glared at Ambrose with get-on-with-it-stupid expectation.

“What’s he waiting on?”

“You’d think a disgraced, court-martialed soldier would be the first to go forward for forgiveness.”

Ambrose ignored them. He knew how not to be worn down by peer pressure. He’d only come to church hoping to find Hephzibah.


Her name meant “my delight is in her.”

His delight had always been in her. Of all days, he’d felt sure she would come to church the Sunday after Christmas.

But she hadn’t.

18 comments to “Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: A Pioneer On the Entrepreneurial, Literary and Astral Planes — Harriet E. Wilson (Contest)”

  1. Cindy
    · April 19th, 2023 at 7:41 am · Link

    Hattie lived an interesting life. Despite the racial and social problems of the time, she was able to write her book. Sadly, today, the title would be stopped even before the book would be published. Censoring history will not make it magically disappear.

  2. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 8:51 am · Link

    Hi Cindy, So true. She was merely using the vernacular of the day. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 8:51 am · Link

    As always, thanks for allowing me to share my love of African-American women on your blog, Delilah.

  4. Paula
    · April 19th, 2023 at 10:08 am · Link

    I have heard of “Our Nig” but nothing about its author. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 10:10 am · Link

    My pleasure, Paula. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Jennifer Wilck
    · April 19th, 2023 at 1:34 pm · Link

    Wow, such a fascinating woman. I admire her resilience.

  7. Mary Preston
    · April 19th, 2023 at 6:53 pm · Link

    What a fascinating woman and life. I must make time to read her work.

  8. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 6:56 pm · Link

    Hi Jennifer, She certainly was. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 6:57 pm · Link

    Hi Mary, I want to read the whole book too. I’m always looking for primary sources about the lives of African-Americans in the North. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Eileen Airey
    · April 19th, 2023 at 7:28 pm · Link

    Thank you for bringing this powerful, fasinating woman to my attention. I now have a book I need to read. I always enjoy books that take you back in time. It is so interesting to read about how the peopke lived back then. The rules of society. I think she lead a hard life but was a very strong woman.

  11. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 9:15 pm · Link

    Hi Eileen, I agree. I’m inspired how women like Harriet refuse to let life take them down. Thanks for commenting.

  12. BN
    · April 19th, 2023 at 9:50 pm · Link

    interesting person

  13. flchen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 10:13 pm · Link

    What an incredibly resourceful and resilient woman, Anna–thank you for bringing her and others like her to our awareness!

  14. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 10:22 pm · Link

    She certainly was an interesting person, BN. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 19th, 2023 at 10:23 pm · Link

    It’s my pleasure, flchen.

  16. Debra Guyette
    · April 21st, 2023 at 6:15 am · Link

    She was very interesting. Using terms and situations from history are OK by me but not for others.

  17. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · April 21st, 2023 at 7:36 am · Link

    Hi Debra, I’m intrigued to find out more about her activities as a spiritualist. I find offensive terms used within their historical context okay too. I’m just always clear they’re not okay for ours. Thank for stopping by.

  18. Delilah
    · April 29th, 2023 at 7:08 am · Link

    Thanks to Anna for another wonderful post!

    The winner of the GC is…Debra Guyette!

Comments are closed.