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Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton (c. 1832-1895)
Maria Amparo Ruiz was born into an aristocratic Latino family on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Her grandfather, Don Jose Manuel Ruiz, owned a vast tract of land around Ensenada and served as the governor of Baja. The family's control of the area came to an end during the Mexican-American War (1845-48), when the American army occupied Baja and forced the surrender...
At the end of the eighteenth century, the Cherokee tribe was living in the mountain areas of northern Georgia and western North Carolina, on land guaranteed to them by the United States in the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell and the 1791 Holston Treaty. The Cherokee Nation had its own government, governing council, and by 1827 its own constitution, making it an...
Louise Amelia Smith Clappe (1819-1906)
Born in New Jersey and educated at female academies in New England, Louise Clappe had an unusual background for a participant in and chronicler of the Gold Rush. She was raised by her father, a mathematics professor, after her mother's early death, and then by a guardian after she was orphaned in 1837. Her thorough education left her with a well-rounded...
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
At the height of his fame in the early nineteenth century, James Fenimore Cooper was America's foremost novelist and one of the most successful writers in the world. Judgments on his stature as a novelist have been less generous since that time, but few would dispute the cultural significance of his innovative tales. Building on the example of the British novelist...
The corrido, a narrative ballad usually sung or spoken to music, was the most important literary genre of the southwestern border region, where it achieved its greatest popularity between the 1830s and the 1930s. Developed by Mexicans and Mexican Americans living in the former Mexican province of Nuevo Santander (currently Texas, New Mexico, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and...
Caroline Stansbury Kirkland (1801-1864)
Appearing well before either "regionalism" or "realism" had established themselves as literary movements, Caroline Kirkland's early writings anticipate these developments to such a degree that many critics now consider her to be among their founders. Born to a literary, middle-class family in New York, Caroline Stansbury received a good education at a series...
Nat Love (1854-1921)
Born into slavery in Tennessee, Nat Love eventually found fame as "Deadwood Dick," the cowboy celebrated in western lore, dime novels, and his own autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love (1907). Because of Love's tendency toward hyperbole, his account of his life is sometimes understood as part of the western "tall tale" tradition. But his story also reflects...
John Rollin Ridge (Yellow Bird) (1827-1867)
John Rollin Ridge was born in the Cherokee Nation (present-day Georgia) into a prominent Native American family. Both his father and his grandfather were Cherokee chiefs, landowners, and slave-owners. During Ridge's youth, the tribe was troubled by white settlers' increasing encroachment on its lands and by mounting pressure from the United States government...
Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1867)
Catharine Maria Sedgwick was one of the leading figures in early-nineteenth-century American literary culture. Although she is less well known today, she set a pattern for the development of both domestic novels and historical novels in this country. Male writers such as James Fenimore Cooper and William Cullen Bryant respected Sedgwick as a peer, while female authors such as...
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Walt Whitman's publication of Leaves of Grass in July 1855 represented nothing short of a radical shift in American poetry. Written in free verse--that is, having no regular meter or rhyme but instead relying on repetition and irregular stresses to achieve poetic effects--Whitman's poems flouted formal conventions in favor of an expansive, irregular...
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