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Brown, William Wells. (ca 1815 - 1884).

L i f e

- son of a black slave and a white slave-owning father

- escaped and adopted the name of a Quaker friend helping him to his freedom (dedicated him his first autobiographical book)

- supported the abolitionists: an eloquent speaker, became a lecturing agent for the NY Anti-Slavery Society, and spread the abolitionist ideas also in Europe

W o r k

- pioneered different genres in Afro-American literature: fiction, drama, and travel writing

William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave (1847)

Three Years in Europe (1852)

My Southern Home (1880):

- all the above are autobiographies and travel accounts

- also include fine sketches of the black folk culture

Clotel; or, The President's Daughter (1853):

- the first novel published by an Afro-American

- concern: T. Jefferson’s relationship with the slave woman Sally Hemmings and their imaginary daughter

The Escape; or, a Leap for Freedom (1858):

- the first play published by an Afro-American

- dramatisation of his autobiography

- an indictment of religious hypocrisy


"Thirteen years ago, I came to your door, a weary fugitive from chains and stripes. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was hungry, and you fed me. Naked was I, and you clothed me. Even a name by which to be known among men, slavery had denied me. You bestowed upon me your own. Base indeed should I be, if I ever forget what I owe to you, or do anything to disgrace that honored name"!

From the dedication of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave (1847).


(Picture: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    William Wells Brown. (ca 1815 - 1884). African-American.
  • Work

    Abolitionist. Novelist. Playwright. Author of the first novel published by an Afro-American.
  • Genres

    Abolitionism. Folklore.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


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