"When black male reformers argued over who should get the vote first -- black men or white women -- Mrs. Harper sided with black men. She said that most of the injustices she suffered were because of her race rather than her sex," reported a 1986 Evening Sun article. "And when this argument led white feminists to disparage black men, Mrs. Harper reminded the feminists that black men had stood beside them in the fight for women's rights even when most white men turned their backs."
Between 1870 and 1890, she became active in the Women's Christian Temperance Movement and headed its department for black citizens. She was named director of the American Association of Education of Colored Youth in 1894 and later helped to organize the National Association of Colored Women.
There is light beyond the darkness.
Joy beyond the present pain;
There is hope in God's great justice
And the negro's rising brain.
Though the morning seems to linger
O'er the hill-tops far away,
Yet the shadows bear the promise
Of a brighter coming day.
Harper died on Feb. 22, 1911, of heart failure in Philadelphia, and was buried in that city's Eden Cemetery.
In her poem, "Bury Me in a Free Land," she penned her own legacy.
I ask no monument, proud and high.
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves.
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.
--Frederick N. Rasmussen
Originally published February 6, 1999