It’s that time again when I highlight the proud achievements of African Americans in the field of literature. William Wells Brown (1814 – 1884) was the first African American to write and publish a novel. Clotel, or The President’s Daughter: a Narrative of Slave Life in the United States was published in London in 1853. It told the story of a girl who was the daughter of President Thomas Jefferson and his African American housekeeper. William himself was of mixed parentage, born into slavery on a plantation near Lexington, Kentucky to a white father, George Higgins and a slave mother, Elizabeth. William later took the names Wells Brown, that of a Quaker friend who befriended him when he escaped from slavery.

Five years after publishing his first book, William went on to publish the first drama by an African American – The Escape, or A Leap fro Freedom. Among his other firsts includes a travel book, Three Years In Europe, (1852) and another play The Experience which was not published. For Black History month we honor the memory of William Wells Brown, prominent abolitionist lecturer, historian and writer.

Clotel or The President’s Daughter