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Second, the man Alfrado marries is a black man pretending to be an escaped slave.There was a big lecture circuit of fugitive slaves at the time, and Southern slaveholders were always claiming that these people were fakes.
In part through the assertion that Our Nig was the first novel by an African American woman, he also actively advocated for its inclusion in the emerging canon of early African American literature. The book's stated purposes were much more modest—or, at least, much more personalized.
Gates, ''and each of the chapters has a literary epigraph, ranging from Shelley to Solomon, each one aptly chosen.'' And although '' Our Nig'' resembles other mid-19th-century sentimental novels, it departs markedly from some conventions of the genre.
'' In most of these novels, everyone lives happily ever after,'' said Mr. '' They're like fairy tales, with good triumphing over evil.
Ignored in its own time, her achievement was overlooked for more than a century.
But then last year a Yale professor, browsing through a Manhattan bookstore, happened upon a curious old volume: a novel published in 1859 called '' Our Nig,'' whose title page said it was by an author called '' Our Nig.'' He bought it for , and although it was months before he got around to reading it, when he did its significance was clear.'' Our Nig'' - resurrected from oblivion by Henry Louis Gates Jr., an assistant professor of English and Afro-American Studies - is not only the first novel published by a black person in this country, but the first published by a black woman as well.