African American Women Writers of the 19th Century: Digital Project Gets a New Life

By Serena Torres
March 1, 2021
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

African American women writers have been an inspiration to this world by bravely sharing their stories, struggles, and triumphs. To acknowledge and honor Black women writers of the nineteenth century and bring their works to a larger audience, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture launched the Digital Schomburg African American Women Writers of the 19th Century site in 1998. The site came ten years after the publishing of The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers (a 30-volume set featuring 45 titles and edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), published by Oxford University Press in 1988, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center. It was created to share poetry, short stories, histories, narratives, novels, biographies, and autobiographies authored by nineteenth-century Black women writers, and honored women such as Effie Waller Smith,Jarena LeeJosie D. (Henderson) Heard, and Susie King Taylor (just a few of the featured writers). Notably, it made the works of 38 African American women writers from that challenging time period accessible.

Mrs. Jarena Lee, African Methodist Episcopal Church evangelist, 1849.

Miss Effie Waller, 1902

The Schomburg Center is excited to announce the African American Women’s Writers of the 19th Century guide, an update to the site that was recently retired. This new version not only includes the digitized books by these phenomenal authors, but also includes original content from the site, such as an introduction by Howard Dodson (retired Director of the Schomburg Center), biographies for each author written by Tonya Bolden, and MLA citations for every digital book. Additionally, researchers will find online resources that will lead to further discovery and advanced knowledge of these incredible authors, such as Lucy A. DelaneyAlice Dunbar-Nelson, Sojourner Truth, and Phillis Wheatley.

Lucy A. Delaney 1870 - 1890

No guide would be complete without featuring the Schomburg Center’s collections. Excitingly, all divisions of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Art and ArtifactsJean Blackwell Hutson Research and ReferenceManuscripts Archives and Rare BooksMoving Image and Recorded Sound; and Photographs and Prints) are represented with related materials listed on their individual pages! We invite you to visit, explore, and read the works of these extraordinary women. As Mr. Dodson so accurately says in his introduction “They constitute the foundations of the African American and African American women’s literary traditions…”. These women have done that and so much more.