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William Wells Brown
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Advocate
    (November 6, 1814-November 6, 1884)
    Born in Lexington, Kentucky
    Wrote ‘Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,’ ‘Narrative of William W. Brown, An American Slave,’ ’Three Years in Europe, or People I Have Met,’ ‘Clotel, or the President’s Daughter,’ ’The American Fugitive in Europe,’ ‘‘The Rising Son,’ and ‘My Southern Home’
    Born a slave, to white planter George W. Higgins and slave woman, Elizabeth
    Was sold repeatedly, before escaping to Ohio (after several unsuccessful attempts)
    Freedom was officially bought in 1854
    Toured the US and Europe on a lecture circuit to protest slavery
    He was as well known as Fredrick Douglass in his heyday, but now is overshadowed by Douglass and barely remembered by non-Academics.
    He feuded publicly with Douglass.
    Like Douglass, he wrote and published multiple memoirs.
    During the 1850s, he was criticized as indifferent to abolition for leading a gay social life in Europe while his fellow slaves were still ‘suffering under the lash’ in the US.
    He regularly churned out sentimental parlor literature which has not aged well.
    His target audience was almost exclusively wealthy white middle class women.
    He was a proponent of black emigration to Haiti in the 1850s.
    He was active in the Temperance movement.
    His title as the first African-American novelist is disputed because his works were first published out of England.
    His lectures, while serious, were laced with wry humor and sarcastic irony; often eliciting ‘roars of laughter’ from his audiences with his deadpan delivery.
    He was prolific – writing memoirs, novels, plays, poetry, and history, equally well.
    It is believed that he is less remembered because it was more difficult to categorize him strictly as a ‘slave writer’ (a label he resisted in his lifetime).
    He was the first published African-American playwright.
    He spent so much time in Europe because the Fugitive Slave Act made it too risky to be in the US.
    His first novel, ‘Clotel,’ was a fictional account of Thomas Jefferson’s black illegitimate daughters being sold into slavery (oh yeah, he went there).
    He has been referred to as an American ‘trickster’ figure, frequently upending the slave establishment with wit and quick-thinking in his slave anecdotes.
    He worked for the Northern war effort by recruiting black soldiers for the 54th Regiment.
    His writings served as a stylistic template for both Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ and Harriet Jacobs’ ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.’
    His situation as a slave was unusual, as he was consistently sold alongside his mother, instead of being separated from her.
    He helped hundreds of slaves to escape to Canada while working as a steamboat porter.
    His slave narratives have been described as more realistic depictions of slave life than Frederick Douglass’ accounts.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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