The Mystery of The Bondwoman’s Narrative May be Solved

by Rachel Baker on September 19, 2013

In 2002, there was a best seller many thought to be the first written by an African-American woman. The novel gave a depiction of Southern life in the 1850s through the eyes of a house servant. This servant was literate and refined; but, no one knew the author’s identity. Until recently.

That literary mystery may have been solved by a professor of English in South Carolina, who said this week that after years of research, he has discovered the novelist’s name: Hannah Bond, a slave on a North Carolina plantation owned by John Hill Wheeler, is the actual writer of “The Bondwoman’s Narrative,” the book signed by Hannah Crafts.

Beyond simply identifying the author, the professor’s research offers insight into one of the central mysteries of the novel, believed to be semi-autobiographical: how a house slave with limited access to education and books was heavily influenced by the great literature of her time, like “Bleak House” and “Jane Eyre,” and how she managed to pull off a daring escape from servitude, disguised as a man.

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