Harriet Wilson was a young Black girl in Milford, New Hampshire, and worked as a servant for a white family after being orphaned.
Milford was known for its anti-slavery activism. You might think, then, that young Harriet was treated with kindness, or even dignity - but you’d be dead wrong.
Wilson’s mistress put her to work from the age of seven as a household servant, and she was forced to sleep in a freezing, unfinished storage room. Her mistress’s torture included beatings, whippings, and more.
Even after escaping their household as an adult, she struggled to survive in the “free” North due to racism and discrimination.
Her powerful memoir, “Our Nig,” written by an impoverished Wilson to try and raise money and only uncovered a century later, exposed the truth: Northern anti-slavery whites were often just as racist as their Southern kin.
Is their hypocrisy surprising?
Our hope has always had to lie in community, in the commonalities with our Black brothers and sisters.
We must resist revisionist history that casts white northerners as “saviors” who lifted us up out of the squalor of slavery - the truth then, as now, is that Black liberation will come only from within our community, and our best bet is to place our hope and trust in ourselves!