Known during her lifetime as the "Bronze Muse," Harper (1825-1911) was born in Baltimore, the daughter of free black parents. An ardent abolitionist, she lived and worked in northern states not subject to a Fugitive Slave Law. She published novels (e.g., Iola Leroy; or, Shadows Uplifted . . . (Garrigues Brothers, Philadelphia 1892, 282 pp.)
During reconstruction, Harper traveled extensively through the southern states. Based on the scenes she encountered, and the people she met, especially freed slaves, Sketches retells the history of reconstruction from the perspective of a freed-woman, Aunt Chloe, in verse.
Sketches is not "typical" of travel literature, to be sure, but it documents through Harper’s poetic imagination a journey to a place as foreign to an educated freeborn black woman immediately after the Civil War as Europe was to any upper class American at the time.