Servitude and Homelessness: Harriet Wilson’s <i>Our Nig</i>

Carol J. Singley

in Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship, and National Identity in Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199779390
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895106 | DOI:
Servitude and Homelessness: Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig

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Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig (1859) demonstrates the limits of adoption for a poor racially marked Northern child deemed unfit for the middle class. The mixed race Frado Smith is denied adoption after her impoverished mother abandons her to an affluent white family. Her tale resembles that of an indentured servant but without the training and support necessary to help her enter the adult world of work. Frado is beaten and abused, her efforts to seek solace in religion thwarted and her labor debased. Wilson’s refusal to write a happy adoption ending for Frado represents a critique of Northern racism as well an indictment of the exclusion of African American children from the dominant literary genres aligned with the white middle-class experience.

Keywords: Harriet Wilson; Our Nig; Frado Smith; Mag Smith; race; racism; indentured service; slavery; seduction tale; Christianity; child abandonment; birth mother; Sarah S. Baker; Bound Out; authorship

Chapter.  9488 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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