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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

             Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a gifted poet, author, and lecturer. Her humble beginnings had a profound affect on her thirst for knowledge and justice for the Negro slave. As life and its many challenges unfolded for Harper during the 1800's, she embraced those obstacles with grace and dignity as she endured the struggles of the abolitionist movement. Therefore, this paper will examine her background, provide a critical analysis of five of her poems, and a personal commentary will be provided.
             According to Hill, Harper was born on September 24, 1824 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was the daughter of free slaves and was orphaned at the age of three. Fortunately, Harper was placed in the loving care of her uncle, William Watkins, who deeply influenced her life. William Watkins was a "self educated minister, a shoemaker by trade, and a staunch abolitionist, who taught her the classics, the Bible, rhetoric, and antislavery writings" (Hill, 345). He also had a major influence on Harper's political, religious, and social views (Sara A. Therkelsen and Chanomi Maxwell-Parish, voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/francesellenwatikinsharper.html).
             She began her childhood education at the Academy for Negro Youth. This school was founded by her uncle, William Watkins. Harper concluded her formal education during her early teen years. Afterwards, she "took a position in a Baltimore bookstore and used the opportunity to read widely" (Bloom, 66). However according to Maryemma Graham, Harper was also hired in the capacity of seamstress and housekeeper by owners of the bookstore, the Amstrongs (Graham, xxxiv).
             The turning point in Harper's life came while she was living in Little York, Pennsylvania. Harper "frequently saw poor, wretched, half-starved fugitive slaves traveling the underground railroad." After learning about the Fugitive Slave Act, (which did not allow free blacks to enter Maryland without risk of getting captured or sold), she was moved to dedicate her life to the anti-slavery movement (Hill, 345).

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