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William Wells Brown: An African American Life by Ezra Greenspan (review)

William Wells Brown: An African American Life by Ezra Greenspan (review) William Wells Brown: An African American Life. By Ezra Greenspan. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014. Pp. 614. Cloth, $35.00.) Perhaps William Wells Brown’s time has finally come. The man who published his own account of slavery two years after the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass appeared in 1845 remained in his formidable predecessor’s shadow for the remainder of his life—and that shadow only lengthened after death. As if to compensate for his initial belated- ness, Brown became a literary trailblazer—author of “the earliest African American travelogue (Three Years in Europe, 1852),” “the earliest African American novel (the now canonized Clotel, 1853),” “the earliest printed African American play (The Escape, 1858),” “a pioneering history of African Americans (The Black Man, 1863),” and “the first history of African American military service in the Civil War (The Negro in the American Rebellion, 1867)” (4). Brown’s composite history of the African diaspora, The Rising Son (1873), may not have been a “black first” along the same lines, but My Southern Home (1880), Brown’s unsettling contribution to the plantation school of literature, certainly was. Brown coupled relentless literary innovation with multimedia performance artistry, accompanying his lectures with songs from his Anti-Slavery http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

William Wells Brown: An African American Life by Ezra Greenspan (review)

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807

Abstract

William Wells Brown: An African American Life. By Ezra Greenspan. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014. Pp. 614. Cloth, $35.00.) Perhaps William Wells Brown’s time has finally come. The man who published his own account of slavery two years after the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass appeared in 1845 remained in his formidable predecessor’s shadow for the remainder of his life—and that shadow only lengthened after death. As if to compensate for his initial belated- ness, Brown became a literary trailblazer—author of “the earliest African American travelogue (Three Years in Europe, 1852),” “the earliest African American novel (the now canonized Clotel, 1853),” “the earliest printed African American play (The Escape, 1858),” “a pioneering history of African Americans (The Black Man, 1863),” and “the first history of African American military service in the Civil War (The Negro in the American Rebellion, 1867)” (4). Brown’s composite history of the African diaspora, The Rising Son (1873), may not have been a “black first” along the same lines, but My Southern Home (1880), Brown’s unsettling contribution to the plantation school of literature, certainly was. Brown coupled relentless literary innovation with multimedia performance artistry, accompanying his lectures with songs from his Anti-Slavery

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Nov 21, 2015

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