Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Voice Almost Lost: Hannah Craft

Unless you have studied literature at the graduate level, you have probably never heard of Hannah Craft. But who is she? Why is she important?
She is often not mentioned when, professors talk about the great pioneers of literature, but her name deserves a place for the simple fact that she was a first.
Hannah Craft is the author of a fictional Autobiography called Hannah Craft A Bond’s Woman’s Narrative. She is believed to be the first ever former U.S. slave to create a work of fiction and quite possibly the first black woman fiction author in the whole world.
Her manuscript was found during an auction by author and literary scholar Henry Louis Gates who instantly recognized its value.
Little is known about the author, who is known as Hannah, only what can be gleaned from the pages she penned. The North Carolina family who owned Hannah actually existed and their letters and other documents can be found in the East Carolina University Library’s Archives.
In writing her tale, she borrows heavily from other writers of the time period, including Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte. Her manuscript contains several cross outs and revisions which Gates left for the reader.

But most importantly scholars believe her work is an authentic slave voice, untouched by white abolitionist. I would encourage all writers, interested in taking on the topic of slavery, to look at her work. I myself gleaned information about slavery especially slave brothels when penning my own novel A Time to Say Goodbye.

Source: The Shape of Absence.  Hilary Mantel

ECU Gradute Course with Dr. Gree Hecimovich, 2005.

Josette Downey is the author of A Time to Say Goodbye, the first entry in the three-part Abolitionist Chronicles. She has a master’s degree in English From East Carolina University, and currently works for a premier test scoring company. She is the mother of a precocious six-year-old girl, who enjoys bugs, snakes and superman.  She enjoys southern cooking, reading and exploring emerging technology, but is best defined by her devotion to her faith and the empowerment of women in the modern world.

A Time to Say Goodbye 99 cents on amazon.


  1. I found this post so very interesting and I look forward to reading A Time to Say Goodbye.
    Thank you!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  2. So glad to learn of Hannah Craft; thank you for sharing! I look forward to reading A TIME TO SAY GOODBYE!

  3. Who says reading is a waste of time? There is much to learn from reading good books. I know cooking and cleaning must be done, but feeding the mind and soul is important too.