Harriet Wilson Statue
Harriet Wilson’s Monument is a representation of the struggles women underwent trying to fit into the working society after the end of slavery. Harriet was the first African American female storyteller. She was a free slave at the time she was writing his first book, Our Nig or Sketches of a Free Black. Despite being the first female to write a book or biography, Harriet highlights the fundamental experiences of the African Americans both during slavery and after slavery. After slavery, African Americans were trying to be independent by entering the industrial world. Making a living was the goal of all African Americans, especially since they had to feed their families. However, even after slavery ended, the African Americans still felt racial discrimination in the industrial space. It is for this reason that Harriet wrote the book Our Nig or Sketches of a Free Black. In the book, she talks about how African Americans struggle to fit into society. Society was designed in a way that white dominance was still the order of the day (Araújo and Schneider 34). Harriet highlighted these issues together with the role of women in the industrial space. As a single mother, Harriet struggles to provide for her child. She worked with men and earned to feed his child. Her story tells the story of the African American experiences from the perspective of a woman, which makes it an important part of America’s history.
Story of the Monument
Harriet Wilson’s monument is erected in Milford, NH. It is a way of honouring her accomplishment as a woman. This monument is important because it symbolizes the struggles of women to tell their own stories. As a female novelist, Harriet found herself in a world dominated by male novelists. When she published her fictional biography highlighting the experiences of free Blacks, she became the first woman to be an author of a novel, and go on and publish it (Logan 21). The monument tells the story of a strong Black woman, who worked hard to provide for her own child. After her separation from her husband, she was left with their child to take care of. She worked as a house-help and other jobs to ensure her child was fed, had clothes, and went to school. Even though she later took the child to foster care, she did her part as a mother, and went against the established patriarchal system to write history from the perspective of a woman. With all the novelists and authors male at the time, African American experiences were only told from the perspective of men, which marginalized women. Also, Harriet was born in Milford. In this regard, this monument is important for the people of Milford and the whole of America because of how Harriet fought against all odds to bring women into the picture in the literary space. She made women recognized and their experiences understood by writing her fictional biography. Therefore, Harriet’s monument is an important part of America’s history.
Connections to the Theme of Mini-Exhibition
My mini-exhibition focuses on the theme of African American experiences during and after slavery. Art is an important form of expression. People use it to express how they feel, their thoughts, and their perception of the world around them. African Americans used art and literature to make their feelings and thoughts known. They talked about their experiences during and after slavery. Harriet’s monument is integral to this theme. As an African American women and a free Black, she understood what slavery entailed, how it affected them as African Americans and what the majority of people felt about it. Harriet also found her roots into the industrial and literary worlds. She is well-placed to talk about the experiences of Blacks during and after slavery because she experienced the two lives. Her story illustrates how women focused on writing to express themselves and gain financially. She embodies the struggles of the African American women in the industrial and literary space. As such, this monument and the story of Harriet Wilson relates to my primary theme in the mini-exhibition. She talks about her experiences during and after slavery, which makes her story important to the discussion.
Significance of the Monument
In America today, we still face issues of racism and racial discrimination. Recently, the killing of George Floyd sparked outrage in the United States and other parts of the world. It intensified the Black Lives Matter movement and brought to light the different experiences Blacks had in their encounters with the police. However, the incident is a reflection of how African Americans have felt over the years. Harriet’s monument provides an historical context of the African American experiences in the United States. It helps people understand how Blacks have been treated over the years, both during and after slavery. For instance, as a Black woman, she tells the story from the perspective of women. Even though both men and women undergo the same racial discrimination, women have additional challenges to deal with. Their marginalization by a patriarchal society was one of the many experiences or discrimination they had to undergo in America. Because Harriet experienced them first-hand, her story is significant in providing the historical context of the gender and racial discriminations that still exist in America.
Furthermore, Harriet was the first woman to write and public a novel. The significance of her monument is tied to the fact that it represents the resilience of women and their importance in U.S. history. Harriet puts women in the picture by standing up for them and telling their stories. She ensured that her experiences as a woman in the U.S. were heard by people and everyone understood why they are also important to the working space. Therefore, as part of America’s history, Harriet’s monument is integral and significant.
Through the monument, the following are the most important questions to raise:
- What does Harriet’s story tell us about the experiences of women during and after slavery?
- How did her story impact America’s perception about women?
Araújo, Eliza de Souza Silva, and Liane Schneider. "Our Nig, by Harriet E. Wilson: Frado and the characterization of oppression." Caderno Espaço Feminino 29.1 (2016).Logan, April Catrina. Theorizing and Performing Socio-political Representation: Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs, and Pauline Hopkins. Diss. Temple University. Libraries, 2011.