Thu, 05/26/2016

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, professor of English and Paul Murray Kendall Chair in Biography, authored an article in The Conversation about rediscovering black female writer Sarah E. Farro. Farro wrote "True Love: A Story of English Domestic Life," an 1891 novel about a man's quest to marry his love. The characters are white and the story is set in England, though the author herself had not been to the country. The novel was featured at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Though Farro's race was documented, the record of her as an African-American author faded from history. "With my discovery, Farro becomes only the second known African-American woman novelist published in the 19th century," says Gerzina.

"Farro was first celebrated and brought to public attention precisely because of her race, she doesn’t fit the mold of familiar early African-American writers. Nor is she similar to those who have been revived and 'rediscovered,'" Gerzina says. "[Her] novel tells us that black women of her time read, discussed and emulated the works of people who were not like them."

Gerzina asserts that this rediscovery challenges us to consider how it "changes our views of the African-American experience."