In Milford, NH stands the bronze statue of Harriet Wilson, the first African-American to publish a novel in North America. Wilson was born free on March 15th, 1825, in Milford, and a few years later was abandoned by her mother. Till she was 18, she worked as an indentured servant at the Hayward home, who also abused her. She got married twice and had a son who died when he was seven years old. In 1859 she published anonymously, in Boston, MA, her novel- Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black. It received recognition only in 1982, when the scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., rediscovered it and documented it as the first African-American novel published in the US. In later years, Wilson worked as a maid in several places and gave lectures across New England. She passed away on June 28th, 1900, in Quincy Hospital, MA.
In 2003, Jerri Ann Boggis, a Milford local, learned about Wilson’s story and her roots in Milford. She gathered a group of founding mothers, and they established the Harriet Wilson Project. The mission was to raise the awareness of African-American heritage in the area and especially Wilson’s. The group harnessed the entire community to commemorate Wilson’s legacy with a statue.
In 2006 the sculptor Fern Cunningham-Terry, who also sculptured the Harriet Tubman Memorial in Boston, created the statue. Wilson is depicted sitting and reading her book. Her son is standing next to her. The stone pedestal reads- “Harriet E. Wilson Author 1825-1900.”
On November 4th, 2006, in the special dedication ceremony, Iris Thompson, the oldest black resident in Milford at the time, unveiled the statue. The school band performed, and a high school student releases a white dove. The statue is the last stop of the self-guided tour – History of the Milford Black Heritage Trail.
Our feminist project of wanderlust and equality-aspired community maps the HerStories of worldwide wonder women.
Explore the website for excellent guided tours, travel tips, unique landmarks, fun girlfriend getaways, events, and in-depth articles about gender, equality, space, and (not-told-enough) female legacy.