Abolitionism and William Wells Brown

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Also, in Clotel; or, The President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States (1853), the first African American novel, Brown relates the story of Thomas Jefferson's relationship with his slave mistress Sally Hemings (1773–1835). Originally published in England, the novel eventually came to U.S. readers, but only after it had been significantly revised, with references to the president removed. Much like the evolution of Douglass's anti-slavery agenda, Brown began his career as a pacifist who boycotted political abolitionism in the 1840s, but his writings over the course of the following decade reflect his growing militancy and preference for political activism to end slavery.

Slave narratives have clear political and social agendas, as they seek to expose and record the evils of slavery, but some of the most compelling antislavery writing appeared in nonliterary genres, as well. While many abolitionists adopted several different genres (e.g., Garrison, Douglass, Brown, and Child all wrote in literary and nonliterary forms), several are known chiefly for their polemical writings. Before his mysterious death, David Walker (1785–1830) worked to circulate to African Americans in both the North and South his controversial Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles, Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America (1829). Inciting its African American audience to overthrow the system of slavery, Walker's Appeal provoked many Southern states to enact stronger laws against teaching slaves to read. "If any are anxious to ascertain who I am," writes David Walker near the end of his Appeal, "know the world, that I am one of the oppressed, degraded and wretched sons of Africa, rendered so by the avaricious and unmerciful, among the whites" (p. 71). From that perspective, Walker's rebellious messages especially outraged white readers, even including some abolitionists....
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