One of the most significant contributions to early Black literature, "Iola Leroy" is one of the best-selling novels by an African-American before the 20th century. With its intricate plot, about a mulatto who first assumes she is white, subsequently learns she is the daughter of a slave and is therefore black, and who ultimately makes the conscious choice not to pass for white but to live as a black woman, "Iola Leroy" is a novel filled with the complexities and contradictions of black-and-female existence in America in the nineteenth century. The author of "Iola Leroy," Frances E. W. Harper, was a persuasive and sensitive writer, a popular and articulate speaker, and friend of some of the best-known political activists, religious leaders, educators, and artists of her day. "Iola Leroy" tackles an array of issues affecting the black race, and America in general, during the late 19th century. These issues range from gender, to internalized racism among the Negro of lighter skin color, the infamous "Negro question," the hypocrisy of religion, and many others. The opening chapters in "Iola Leroy" about the slaves under slavery, the slaves during the civil war, their actual role in stopping the confederacy, the intelligence of the slaves, and all are not just idle depictions, but responses to those who felt slaves were incapable of revolution. Harper's analysis of the strength and struggle of the freedmen and freedwomen after slavery tends to also reply to the debate about whether they were worthy of freedom, and whether the fall of reconstruction was inevitable. Harper was optimistic about the future and potential of African-Americans, maintaining that the doors of education, religious freedom, and of economy and capitalism were open to the race. The most undeniable value of the book, is the call that the author makes for literacy, temperance, and the uplifting of the race.