Drawing on letters, personal testimony, works of art, novels, and historic Black newspapers, this book is an interdisciplinary exploration of Black women’s contributions to the intellectual life of nineteenth-century America.

Black Female Intellectuals in Nineteenth Century America reconceptualizes the idea of what the term "intellectual" means through its discussions of both familiar and often forgotten Black women, including Edmonia Lewis, Harriet Powers, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman, amongst others. This re-envisioning brings those who have previously been excluded from the scholarship of Black intellectualism more generally, and Black female intellectuals specifically, into the center of the debate. Importantly, it also situates the histories of Black women participating in the intellectual cultures of the United States much earlier than most previous scholarship.

This book will be of interest to both undergraduate and postgraduate specialists and students in the fields of African American history, women’s and gender history, and American studies, as well as general readers interested in historical and biographical works.

chapter |18 pages


Searching for Black Female Intellectuals in Nineteenth-Century America

chapter 1|34 pages

“Citizenship Divas” of Nineteenth-Century America

Black Female Intellectuals and the Complexities of Performance

chapter 2|26 pages

“I Must Speak, I Must Think, I Must Act.” [Laura Simmes, 1864]

The Christian Recorder, Literary Activism, and the Black Female Intellectual

chapter 3|36 pages

“The Darling Offspring of Her Brain” [Harriet Powers, c. 1892]

Creativity, Quiet Activism, and Nineteenth-Century Black Female Artists as Intellectuals

chapter 4|33 pages

“Oh Yea, Daughters of Africa, Awake! Awake! Arise” [Maria W. Stewart, 1831]

Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism and Questions of Gender, Race, and Home

chapter 5|19 pages

“Labor[ing] Advantageously in the Field” [Edmonia G. Highgate, 1864]

Black Female Educators and the Philosophy of Racial Uplift

chapter |17 pages


The Realities of Life (and Death) for Nineteenth-Century Black Female Intellectuals