The Travels of William Wells Brown

Travels of William Wells BrownjpgThis is the remarkable story of two trips by a fugitive slave. One is the dramatic and poignant journey of a humiliated slave up the Mississippi to the North, into freedom. The second is a glorious voyage to Europe of the same man, now an elegant and eloquent ambassador of the abolitionists, who hobnobs with writers like Victor Hugo, and moves freely in high society.

His autobiography, The Narrative of William Wells Brown, A Fugitive Slave (1845), chronicles Brown’s life in bondage — disclosing aspects of slavery more various and disturbing than even the narrative of his contemporary Frederick Douglass — and his pilgrim’s progress north to freedom. This book is one of the most significant works of slave literature. Ten years later Brown published The American Fugitive in Europe: Sketches of Places and People Abroad, a travel report written in the style of the best European journalism. Both are included in this volume.

Both the autobiography and the travel account are classic examples of nineteenth-century first-person prose narratives. Printing the two in one volume allows the reader to experience the richness and variety of nineteenth-century literature at its best.

William Wells Brown was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky in 1814. He died 70 years later in Boston, Massachusetts, a renowned anti-slavery lecturer, professional man of letters, and practicing physician. His best-selling Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter (London, 1853) was the first novel written by an African-American.

Paul Jefferson, professor of history at Haverford College, and nationally recognized expert on nineteenth-century Afro-American history and sociology, has edited this volume with extensive commentary.