Papers & Collections: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Welcome to Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Papers & Collections. This is a working directory of Harper’s known papers and collections of primary documents, as located across many different institutions, libraries, and repositories. The collections encompass a varied range of materials, including Harper’s poetry, her published letters, portraits of her, newspapers she published in, and letters where she is mentioned. The directory below includes links to associated collections and selected additional resources, and is part of the BWOA’s larger mission to help bring together the scattered archival materials of nineteenth-century Black women intellectuals and organizers, re-centering their voices and contributions in the social movements and communities they helped build.
Credits: Primary research locating extant collections of Harper’s writings was conducted by Sabrina Evans, Arline Wilson, and Lauren Barnes between 2020-2023. Editing and review of the directory was conducted by Yolanda Mackey, Sabrina Evans, Takina Walker, Carmin Wong, and Shirley Moody-Turner. Web publishing of the directory completed by Lauren Cooper.
Houghton Library, Harvard University
The Wendell Phillips Papers (1833-1881) includes a letter written by Harper to Phillips in 1866.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The Leon and Beatrice M. Gardiner Collection includes a digitized copy of Harper’s poem, “Twenty-fifth anniversary of Freedom,” (1890).
National Archives Catalog
The National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records: Pennsylvania collection includes a digital copy of the historical registration of Harper’s house as a historical landmark.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, New York Public Library Digital Collection
Harper’s items can be found in various Schomburg collections:
- The Who’s Who in Philadelphia and The Colored American from Slavery to Honorable Citizenship collections contain a still image portrait of Harper, issued 1902.
- The Negro Poets and their Poems collection contains a still image of Harper, issued 1923.
- The Poems collection contains the cover of Poems (1900) and frontispiece including Harper’s portrait, signature, and table of contents.
National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) Rare Books Collection, Smithsonian Libraries
The Smithsonian Libraries includes a digitized copy of Harper’s book of poems: Poems. It includes a photographic portrait of the author with a facsimile of the author’s signature. The physical copy of the book is housed within the NMAAHC Rare Books Collection.
Tulane University Special Collections Library
The George Washington Cable Papers (LaRC) contain a letter from Harper to Jane E. Hitchcock Jones digitized by Alexander Street.
University of North Carolina Library
The Documenting the American South project contains a transcription of Harper’s novel, Iola Leroy or Shadows Uplifted.
Special Collections, University of Utah Libraries
The Oliver Woolley Burt Papers (1936-1980) contain biographical material about Harper.
Chicago Public Library
The Illinois Writers Project: “Negro in Illinois” Digital Collection within the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature contains notes on Olivet Baptist Church, Chicago, including transcripts of newspaper articles regarding Harper’s travels.
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
The Lindseth Collection Of American Woman Suffrage collection includes an autograph verse signed by Harper.
Emory Libraries & Information Technology
The Frances Smith Foster Papers (1980-2009) in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library contains Frances Smith Foster’s research papers about Harper, including Foster’s biographical research and calendars.
The New York Public Library Archives and Manuscripts
The John Edward Bruce Papers contain a letter of condolence, including Harper’s obituary from the Theban Literary Circle (1911).
The Miscellaneous American Letters and Papers (MALP) contain a poem by Harper.
The William Stanley Braithwaite Papers contain a typescript of Harper’s “Bronze Muse” poem. (*Schomburg Division)
Published Work in Historical Newspapers
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Records Collection includes issues of the Christian Recorder from 1854-1856 and 1861-1902. Harper serially published her novels Minnie’s Sacrifice (1869), Sowing and Reaping (1876-1877) and Trial and Triumph (1888) in the Christian Recorder.
Rembert E. Stokes Library, Wilberforce University
The AME Church Archives Collection (1852-1987) includes issues of the Christian Recorder. Harper serially published her novels Minnie’s Sacrifice (1869), Sowing and Reaping (1876-1877) and Trial and Triumph (1888) in the Christian Recorder.
The Original Newspaper Collection- The Liberator includes an incomplete set of issues of The Liberator from 1837-1852. The Liberator published some of Harper’s poetry and lectures, including her poem “Bury Me in a Free Land” (1864).
Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
The Historical Newspaper Collection includes an incomplete set of issues of the National Anti-Slavery Standard from 1854-1863.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
The Dorothy Porter Wesley Papers (1905-1995) include excerpts from the Weekly Anglo-African and the Anglo-African Magazine. Harper’s short story, The Two Offers, was published in the Anglo-African Magazine in 1859.
Primary Materials with Notable References to Harper
Boston Public Library Rare Books Department
The Anti-Slavery Collection includes a letter written in 1865 from Oliver Johnson to William Lloyd Garrison in which Harper is mentioned.
Cornell University, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
The Anti-Slavery Collection includes Samuel J. May’s Diary entry where Harper is listed.
Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
The Clement Family Letters collection includes a letter written in 1857 from Mary S. Clement to her son mentioning Harper.
The Margaret Hope Bacon Research Papers include research materials about Harper.
Additional Primary Sources
The Black Abolitionist Papers
The Black Abolitionist Papers by Peter Ripley includes a selection of Harper’s writings.
The Underground RailRoad
The Underground RailRoad by William Still includes correspondence between Still and Harper.