Après celui de Frederick Douglass (1845), le récit de William Wells Brown (1847) est le plus célèbre des récits d'esclaves fugitifs publiés aux États-Unis avant la guerre de Sécession. Dans ce témoignage incomparable d'un auteur sachant manier l'émotion, l'ironie et l'amertume, Brown retrace l'expérience de sa vie d'esclave et les péripéties de sa fuite vers le nord et la liberté. Une introduction, des notes et des cartes replacent l'auteur et son récit dans le contexte de l'esclavage et du mouvement abolitionniste aux États-Unis pendant la première moitié du dix-neuvième siècle. L'ouvrage est accompagné d'une bibliographie détaillée à l'intention du lecteur - qu'il soit amateur ou spécialiste - désireux d'en apprendre davantage sur cette période cruciale de l'histoire américaine.
First published in December 1853, Clotel was written amid then unconfirmed rumors that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with one of his slaves. The story begins with the auction of his mistress, here called Currer, and their two daughters, Clotel and Althesa. The Virginian who buys Clotel falls in love with her, gets her pregnant, seems to promise marriage--then sells her. Escaping from the slave dealer, Clotel returns to Virginia disguised as a white man in order to rescue her daughter, Mary, a slave in her fathers house. A fast-paced and harrowing tale of slavery and freedom, of the hypocrisies of a nation founded on democratic principles, Clotel is more than a sensationalist novel. It is a founding text of the African American novelistic tradition, a brilliantly composed and richly detailed exploration of human relations in a new world in which race is a cultural construct.
First time in Penguin Classics Published in time for African-American History Month Includes appendices that show the different endings Brown created for the various later versions of Clotel, along with the author's narrative of his "Life and Escape," Introduction, suggested readings, and comprehensive explanatory notes
Born a slave and kept functionally illiterate until he escaped at age nineteen, William Wells Brown (1814-1884) refashioned himself first as an agent of the Underground Railroad, then as an antislavery activist and self-taught orator, and finally as the author of a series of landmark works that made him, like Frederick Douglass, a foundational figure of African American literature. His controversial novel Clotel; or, the President's Daughter (1853), a fictionalized account of the lives and struggles of Thomas Jefferson's black daughters and granddaughters, is the first novel written by an African American. This Library of America volume brings it together with Brown's other groundbreaking works: Narrative of William W. Brown: A Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself (1847), his first published book and an immediate bestseller, which describes his childhood, life in slavery, and eventual escape; later memoirs charting his life during the Civil War and Reconstruction; the first play (The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom, 1858), travelogue (The American Fugitive in Europe, 1855), and history (The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements, 1862) written by an African American; and eighteen speeches and public letters from the 1840s, 50s, and 60s, many collected here for the first time.