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Iola Leroy was originally published in 1892, during a time of black disenfranchisement, lynching, and Jim Crow laws. It is the story of a "refined mulatto," Iola, raised to believe she's white until she and her mother are sold into slavery, leading her to become an advocate for her people and a critic of racemixing.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to free parents. In addition to becoming an esteemed poet and essayist, she was a respected activist for women's rights and the abolitionist movement. Hollis Robbins is a professor of humanities at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and affiliated faculty with the Center for Africana Studies. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books, as well as a producer and writer of documentaries on African American history and culture.