Grateful American® Foundation

What is believed to be the first novel written by an African American?

July 6th

UnknownJuly 6, 1853 — Today, former slave William Wells Brown published Clotel, a story about the daughters and granddaughters of Thomas Jefferson and their relationship to Jefferson’s slave, a man named Currer.

Born in 1814 in Montgomery County, Kentucky, Brown escaped to the North in 1834. He worked on many abolitionist causes and was a prolific writer. Additional historical writings include The Black Man, The Negro in the American Rebellion, and The Rising Son.

u7825_cat1Clotel was published in London, where Brown lived since he began lecturing just before the the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was passed in the US.

He stayed overseas for several years to avoid the risk of capture and re-enslavement. After his freedom was purchased in 1854 by a British couple, he and his two daughters returned to the US and rejoined the abolitionist lecture circuit.

Words of Wisdom

I would have the Constitution torn in shreds and scattered to the four winds of heaven. Let us destroy the Constitution and build on its ruins the temple of liberty. I have brothers in slavery. I have seen chains placed on their limbs and beheld them captive.

— William Wells Brown, author and former slave

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