Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911), née Watkins, was a prominent African-African female social reformer and writer of 19th century America. Watkins became an abolitionist orator after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. In 1854, while teaching at a school in York PA, she was scandalized by the wrongful enslavement and death of a free black laborer named Edward Davis.
Watkins entered the anti-slavery lecture circuit in Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She published the first edition of her bestseller, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects in 1854. Watkins wove anti-slavery pieces such as The Slave Mother, Eliza Harris, The Slave Auction, A Mother’s Heroism, and The Fugitive’s Wife into a broader religious and moral framework. Watkins also published numerous abolitionist poems, speeches, essays and editorials – such as Be Active (1856), Could We Trace the Record of Every Human Heart (1857), Miss Watkins and the Constitution (1859), and Our Greatest Want (1859). Known by this time as the “bronze muse,” Harper also concerned herself with the broad reconstruction of the nation after the Civil War. She championed the rights of blacks and women in her work with the women’s rights movement. Harper died in 1911 and is buried in Eden Cemetery, an historic African American cemetery outside of Philadelphia.
Dr. Robinson nominated Harper to the Hall of Fame. Robinson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Her doctoral studies at Emory University concentrated on the History of Christian Thought. Professor Robinson specializes in the history of Western Christian thought and culture, with an emphasis on 19th C. Europe and America. Her research and teaching have focused on issues in theological anthropology and aesthetics; religion, culture, and identity; and religion and art. She has researched Frances Ellen Watkins Harper for several years and is writing a Harper biography.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper is set to be inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at ceremonies held at 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.
At 1:15 pm the Abolition Symposia will begin with opening remarks and announcements, followed directly by Marcia C. Robinson PhD will present a program on Harper. Dr. Robinson will officially nominate Harper to the Hall of Fame, and sponsors will unveil Harper’s banner which will be installed in the Hall of Fame. A second Harper banner will also be available for outreach exhibits.
At 2:30 pm James L Dumouchel will present on inductee Laura S. Haviland, and at 2:30 Roger Hiemstra PhD. will provide a program on inductee Rev. Samuel J. May.
At 7 pm the Induction ceremonies will be held in the Hall. The Hall of Fame banner for each inductee will be unveiled by the sponsors of the banner following a brief introduction of each inductee. Banner sponsorships of seventy-five dollars are due September 10 with name and affiliation to the inductee.
The public is encouraged to participate in all or parts of the Induction Weekend on Saturday and Sunday October 20 and 21. Registration opens at 8 am Saturday morning October 20 at 5255 Pleasant Valley Road. At 9 am Norman K. Dann PhD, biographer of Gerrit Smith, will conduct a tour of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, and the NAHOF Cabinet of Freedom members will host a tour of the Abolition Hall and Museum at 10:30. Both tours will be provided at the same time on Sunday morning for persons unable to attend the Saturday tours.
The Annual meeting for NAHOF members will be held at 11 am on Saturday. At 12:30 pm the Peterboro United Methodist Church will serve a sandwich buffet at NAHOF.
At 5 pm Michael’s Fine Food and Spirits will serve a 19th C. inspired dinner featuring four entrée selections. Dinner reservations and event registrations are due October 5 to NAHOF, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro. For more information call (315) 280-8828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Portrait of Frances E.W. Harper provided.