The first African American to publish a novel in the United States is, so far as is known, a woman named Harriet E. Wilson. She published a novel entitled Our Nig in 1859. The novel was not known to history for a long time until it was uncovered in 1982 by the African American historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Our Nig is considered to be an autobiographical novel. Wilson was a person of mixed racial heritage. She was born in 1825 as a free person. She later became an indentured servant due to her poor economic circumstances. She is said to have written the novel in part to criticize the treatment of blacks at the time and partly because she needed the money.