NEW YORK, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A South Carolina university professor says Hannah Bond is the author of "The Bondwoman's Narrative," the first novel written by an African-American woman.
The book was written in the mid-1850s and became a best-seller when it was published in 2002 under the pseudonym Hannah Crafts, but its author has remained a mystery until this week, The New York Times said.
Gregg Hecimovich, chairman of the English department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., told the Times his research suggests Bond was a self-educated slave on a North Carolina plantation owned by John Hill Wheeler and -- like the heroine in her semi-autobiographical book -- she disguised herself as a boy and escaped to the North and made a new life for herself as a free woman.
Hecimovich said he has verified the writer's identity through wills, diaries, handwritten almanacs and public records, and he plans to publish his findings in a book tentatively called "The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts."
"Words cannot express how meaningful this is to African-American literary studies," the Times quoted Henry Louis Gates Jr., a renowned scholar of African-American history, as saying. "It revolutionizes our understanding of the canon of black women's literature."
Gates had the manuscript published after he bought it at an auction in 2001, the Times said.