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Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave Paperback – September 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Cosimo Classics (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602067368
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602067363
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,412,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Wells Brown (November 6, 1814 November 6, 1884) was a prominent abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian. Born into slavery in the Southern United States, Brown escaped to the North, where he worked for abolitionist causes and was a prolific writer. Brown was a pioneer in several different literary genres, including travel writing, fiction, and drama, and wrote what is considered to be the first novel by an African American. An almost exact contemporary of Frederick Douglass, Wells Brown was overshadowed by Douglass and the two feuded publicly. William Wells Brown was born into slavery in Lexington, Kentucky. His mother, Elizabeth, was owned by a Dr. Young and had seven children, all with different fathers. (In addition to Brown, her children were Solomon, Leander, Benjamin, Joseph, Milford, and Elizabeth.) Brown's father was George Higgins, a white plantation owner and cousin of the owner of the plantation where Brown was born. Even though Young promised Higgins never to sell the boy, he was sold multiple times before he was twenty years old. Brown spent the majority of his youth in St. Louis. His masters hired him out to work on the Missouri River, then a major thoroughfare for the slave trade. He made several attempts to escape, and on New Year's Day of 1834, he successfully slipped away from a steamboat at a dock in Cincinnati, Ohio. He adopted the name of a Quaker friend of his, who had helped him after his escape by providing him with food, clothes and some money. Shortly after gaining his freedom, he met and married Elizabeth Schooner, a free African-American woman, from whom he separated and later divorced, causing a minor scandal. Together they had three daughters. From 1836 to about 1845, Brown made his home in Buffalo, New York, where he served as a conductor for the Underground Railroad and as a steam boatman on Lake Erie, a position he used to ferry escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. There Brown became active in the abolitionist movement by joining several anti-slavery societies and the Negro Convention Movement. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on November 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Today when we think of pre-Civil War African American leaders, Frederick Douglass is remember solely, and perhaps some remember the heroism of Sojourner Truth. However, there were a number of other African American leaders who help lead the struggle for freedom and dignity. Actually, it is rather surprising that so many of them like Douglass and Martin Delany Jr. also wrote.

Brown certainly was one of the major African American political and intellectual leaders of the 19th Century. Not only was he an antislavery activist, but he was one of the first to write works of African American history and he was among the first African Americans to publish a novel, his Clotel, the President's Daughter.

Not only does this narrative provide the usual chilling view of slavery, and what we can celebrate is the usual ability of Black men and women and their supporters to rise above, out wit and out struggle the slave masters, but also some clear political foresight.

Brown's narrative was entered into a discourse that was opened by the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin about what force would bring an end to slavery. Stowe had put forward the idea of becoming born again in Christ through the evangilical experience inspired by the heroism of slaves, leading to a religious revival that would recognize slavery as the number one sin in the World. Delany proposed a Pan-African cultural revolution to set up a free Black nation that would lead an international slave revolt. Brown's prediction of the solution, and his recognition of the nature of the conflict, not simply between slavery and abolitionism, but between slavery and industrial capitalism, the actual lines of the civil war, was brilliant, prescient, and right.

I enjoyed reading this years ago and wish I hadn't read it yet, so I could have the joy of discovering it again!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patrick on March 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very good book and a quick read (less than 100 pages). I like learning as much as I can about the institution of African American slavery, and books such as this and the Narrative of Frederick Douglass (my favorite) gives the reader a much clearer and precise account of slavery. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to broaden their knowledge of history, and wanting to learn how African Americans such as William Brown have contributed so much to this nation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Ward on December 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
There is a saying that each person has strength enough to bear the misfortune of others; this story tests the limits of those words. From our perspective in the 21st century it is difficult to imagine how owning slaves could ever be rationalized particularly when you can hear the voice of one oppressed human being tell the tale of such an inhumanity. The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave is a short story in pages but it is emotional reading. As we journey farther away from those troubling times it is worthwhile to look back if for no other reason than to reinforce the golden rule in ourselves: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is a wonderful but sad story and definitely worth reading.
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By Scrapple8 on August 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
In an introduction to Twelve Years a Slave, Eric Foner rated the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Josiah Henson, and William Wells Brown as being the best of the slave narratives written in antebellum America. The Narrative of William W. Brown is a short narrative of a man born into slavery who escaped a little more than twenty years later.

Brown did not have the scars from the peculiar institution as, say, Solomon Northup. Brown did experience the end of a lash, and the agony of trying to please an unreasonable master. Most of the anecdotes that Wells related about the horrors of slavery were incidents that he had seen. The Wells Narrative is only sixty-five pages long.

Probably the most important idea to take away from Brown's Narrative is the concept of family. When slaveholders broke up slave families, Southern defenders of slavery argued that the debased Negro was not capable of the kinds of family ties kept by white families. Yet the slaveholders were the ones who were more likely to break up a slave family. Slaveholders encouraged slaves to marry and start families in order to keep them from running away. Southerners knew very well that slaves maintained kinship with emotional ties just as strong as those of white families. Family privileges for slaves were just one of the many ways used by slaveholders to control their slaves.

Brown's Narrative is filled with sadness by slave families who were broken up by slave owners. The incident in Chapter V, where a woman jumped overboard after she was removed from her husband and child, was dramatized by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Chapter 12 of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
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By Gary L. on September 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Though less popular than the narratives of Frederick Douglas, William W. Brown delivered a narrative that cut straight to the bone with its realism and uncouth presentation of slavery as he experienced it. This is a must read for anyone who wishes to gain knowledge of slavery by reading first hand accounts.
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