"A CLASSIC AMONG AFRICAN AMERICAN NOVELS": FRANCES E.W. HARPER'S LANDMARK FIRST AND ONLY NOVEL, IOLA LEROY, 1893, EXCEEDINGLY RARE ASSOCIATION COPY WITH THE OWNER INSCRIPTION OF DYNAMIC BLACK LEADER AND PAN-AFRICANIST ALEXANDER CRUMMELL WHO, WITH MARTIN DELANY AND HENRY HIGHLAND GARNET, FORMED "THE BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL BLACK LEADERSHIP"
(CRUMMELL, Alexander) HARPER, Frances E.W. Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted. Philadelphia: Garrigues Brothers, 1893. Octavo, original gilt-stamped brown cloth, floral patterned endpapers. Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $16,500.
Exceptional 1893 edition of Iola Leroy—"the climax of Harper's literary career… representing the transition from the antebellum period to the Harlem Renaissance"—an especially rare and memorable association copy with the contemporary owner inscription of Alexander Crummell, the "intellectual idol of W.E.B. Du Bois," and a defining early Black nationalist with Delany and Garnet, dedicated "to the creation of a commercially viable Black nation," with frontispiece portrait of Harper, very elusive in original cloth.
Born free in 1825, Harper became "one of the first professional woman orators in the U.S…. famed for 'fiery speeches' that were 'marked by dignity'… In 1858 she protested the segregated streetcars in Philadelphia by staging a personal sit-in and in 1859, when John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry failed, she solicited aid for the captured revolutionaries… Along with Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass and William D. Nell… she is listed as an editor and contributor to what is considered the earliest African American literary journal, Anglo-American Magazine" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 342). A close friend of William Still and one of the leading Black figures to finance the UGRR, Harper also lectured with William Wells Brown and "held up Harriet Tubman… as her feminist hero" (Sinha, Slave's Cause, 450). In the post-war 1860s she embarked on "a two-year speaking tour of the South… [and] sat on the platform with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and others in 1866 at the founding meeting of the American Equal Rights Association" (Foner, Second Founding, 82). She was the "first Black woman to publish a short story, Two Offers (1859)," and in 1893, the year this book was published, delivered "one of her most famous speeches, Women's Political Future." To Maryemma Graham, Harper's moving works of poetry, her powerful speeches and essays "prefigured the work of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Chesnutt, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown and Margaret Walker, as well as an entire generation of Black Arts Movement poets" (Complete Poems, liii).
Yet it is "for Iola Leroy that she is best known… a classic among African American novels" (Oxford Companion, 343). "Her first (and only) novel," its publication "representing the transition from the antebellum period to the Harlem Renaissance" (Foster, Introduction, Iola Leroy, xxxvii). Written for Black readers, it "was one of the first books written in the U.S. that delineates the social life of Black people absent… a relationship to white desire" (McKnight, Frances E.W. Harper, 68). Marking "the climax of Harper's literary career," Iola Leroy links "the past horrors of slavery and the present terror of lynching" in the Jim Crow South (Boyd, Discarded Legacy, 173-4). As such, it is especially memorable that Harper, who mentored anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, named her protagonist after Wells' early penname, and Harper's Iola "provides a model of political activism as a calling." To Harper, "Black lives were indelibly linked to the destiny of the nation" (McKnight, 97, 58).
"The appeal at the end of Iola Leroy is a calling to Black people to commit themselves to the struggle of institution-building and racial uplift in the face of white supremacist terrorism" (Boyd, 16). Stated "Second Edition," issued by the same publisher as the virtually unobtainable 1892 first edition. With frontispiece portrait; introduction by William Still. Published in brown cloth (this copy) and blue cloth: no priority determined. As issued without dust jacket. Jordan 288.9. See Blockson 5560, 5561; Work, 472. This exceptionally rare association copy possesses the owner inscription of Reverend Alexander Crummell who, together with Martin Delany and Henry Highland Garnet, formed "the backbone of the national Black leadership" (Rael, Eighty-Eight Years, 142-43). Early refused entrance into the Episcopal General Theological Seminary as a Black man, Crummell left America for England to study at Queen's College, where he earned an AB in Theology. "An intellectual idol of W.E.B. Du Bois," in 1850 Crummell was joined in England by his childhood friend, Henry Highland Garnet, and they began to develop "an incipient nationalist critique of European imperialism" (Sinha, Slave's Cause, 580, 342). Crummell also shared with Martin Delany a commitment "to the creation of a commercially viable Black nation" (Miller, Search for a Black Nationality, 204). He would spend nearly 20 years in Liberia as a statesman and missionary. "Not unlike Cotton Mather's vision of America as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, Crummell saw in Liberia the fulfillment of God's prophecy for the civilization of Blacks." Returning to America in the 1870s, he became rector of Washington, D.C.'s St. Mary's Episcopal Church. Throughout his life and in his writings, Crummell forcefully addressed the "pressing concerns of African Americans in post-Reconstruction America" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature). Inscribed herein by Crummell on a preliminary blank leaf, "A. E. Crummell, 1484 Pierce Place, Washington, D.C."
Interior very fresh with expert reinforcement to gutter-edge front inner hinge and inscribed leaf, scant trace of edge-wear to bright gilt-lettered cloth. A splendid near-fine copy with a stellar association.