Episode 41

F.E.W. Harper, Learning to Read


February 16th, 2022

23 mins 27 secs

Season 4

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About this Episode

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a prolific writer and activist of the nineteenth century. In this episode, Professor Janaka Bowman Lewis joins us to discuss her power, influence, voice, and work. "Learning to Read" foregrounds the ballad style in a narrative poem designed to keep alive the memories of fighting for both literacy and liberation.

For the full text of the poem, see here: "Learning to Read"

Janaka Bowman Lewis is an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Carolina--Charlotte, and she includes a chapter on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper in Freedom Narratives of African American Women: A Study of 19th Century Writings.

For a good recent article about this poem by Madeline Zehnder, see Commonplace.

For more on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, see the Poetry Foundation.

For good resources on F.E.W. Harper, especially materials related to the recovery and teaching of her first book of poems, Forest Leaves, see the Just Teach One archive at Commonplace.

For the best collection of Harper's work, see Frances Smith Foster, A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Reader

For further reading, see Harper's most famous novel, Iola Leroy.

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