Before Rosa Parks- There Was Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
1846 – She began her amazing career as a writer by publishing her first book of poetry, Forest Leaves, at the age of 21.
1858 – She refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car in Philadelphia (100 years before Rosa Parks) and wrote one her most famous poems, “Bury Me In A Free Land,” when she got very sick while on a lecturing tour. Her short story “The Two Offers” became the first short story to be published by an African American.
1859 – A dedicated abolitionist, Harper was one of the few public figures who did not abandon John Brown after his failed effort at Harpers Ferry, instead writing to him and staying with his wife, Mary, at the home of Lucretia Mott (Philadelphia’s leading Quaker Abolitionist) for the two weeks preceding his hanging.
1865 – In the immediate post-Civil War years, Harper returned to the lecture circuit, focusing her attentions on education for the formerly enslaved, on the Equal Rights Movement and on the Temperance Movement.
Despite all of her remarkable accomplishments, Frances E.W. Harper’s name cannot be found in most history books.