Iola Leroy: Or, Shadows Uplifted, a novel set at the close of the Civil War, is a tale of racial uplift loosely developed around the fortunes and misfortunes of the title character. The opening chapters focus on conversations among the slaves and highlight the masking in which they engage around whites to conceal their joy as they follow the progress of the Union Army. Robert Johnson, the most literate of the slaves, provides leadership and counsel as the Union Army approaches and the folk prepare for their lives of freedom. When the army arrives, Robert, Tom Anderson, and many others join in the fight for freedom. After Iola’s rescue from slavery, she is assigned to the field hospital as a nurse. Iola refuses Dr. Gresham’s proposal that she marry him and move to the North as his white wife.
Harper follows these chapters with a flashback to nearly twenty years before the war. Iola is the daughter of Eugene Leroy, owner of a large plantation, and Marie Leroy, his former slave. When her father dies of yellow fever, Iola learns that she is black. She is sold into slavery along with her mother. After the war, Iola, in keeping with her sense of duty, opens a school for the freed, later destroyed by fire, and discovers that Robert Johnson is her uncle. They unite forces in their search for lost family members. During their search, they meet with the folk from the former plantations and learn that they are all thriving. Aunt Linda, a former cook,...
(The entire section is 533 words.)