Winthrop University Scholar Discovers the Identity of an Early Black Woman Novelist

In 1948 Dorothy Porter Wesley, a librarian at Howard University, purchased an unpublished manuscript from a bookseller in New York. The manuscript was entitled, The Bondwoman’s Narrative: A Fugitive Slave Recently Escaped From North Carolina. Its author was listed Hannah Crafts. In 2001, Wesley’s daughter found the manuscript among her mother’s belongings and placed it up for auction.


Henry Louis Gates Jr., University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, purchased the manuscript for $10,000. The semi-autobiographical book was published for the first time in 2002 and is considered the earliest novel written by an African American woman. More information on the book is available here. Professor Gates donated the original manuscript to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

But one mystery remained. There was no historical evidence of a slave named Hannah Crafts. But now Gregg Hecimovich, chair of the English department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, has identified the author as Hannah Bond, a slave on a North Carolina plantation owned by John Hill Wheeler. Professor Hecimovich states that he has identified the writer’s identity through wills, diaries, and other public records. His work will be published in a forthcoming book. Several scholars, including Professor Gates have seen the evidence and believe in its authenticity.

Related Articles


Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Yale Issues Formal Apology After Research Finds Historic Ties to Slavery

"Today, on behalf of Yale University, we recognize our university’s historical role in and associations with slavery, as well as the labor, the experiences, and the contributions of enslaved people to our university’s history, and we apologize for the ways that Yale’s leaders, over the course of our early history, participated in slavery," says Yale University President Peter Salovey, and Josh Bekenstein, senior trustee of the Yale Corporation.

Kean University Establishes New Center for Africana Studies

“This new center epitomizes the university’s commitment to equity and to serving our state, particularly our urban communities,” said Kean University president Lamont Repollet. 

Pew Research Center Provides Insight into Share of Black-Owned Businesses in the United States

Through analyzing data from the United States Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation, the Pew Research Center found that Black-owned businesses make up 3 percent of companies and earn 1 percent of gross revenue in the United States.

Martin Lemellle Appointed the Eleventh President of Grambling State University

Dr. Martin Lemelle has been serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Featured Jobs