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Before Emma Dunham Kelley’s Megada (1891) and Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig (1859) were discovered, Iola Leroy was initially thought to be the first novel published by an African American woman. Frances Harper’s book — which she published at age 67 — was widely praised for the multitude of themes it addresses, such as abolition, passing, interracial relationships, and women’s education against the backdrop of the 19th century.

Iola Leroy (1892)