Brown wrote extensively as a journalist but was also a pioneer in other literary genres. His many groundbreaking works include Clotel, the first African American novel; The Escape: or, A Leap for Freedom, the first published African American play; Three Years in Europe, the first African American European travelogue; and The Negro in the American Rebellion, the first history of African American military service in the Civil War. Brown also wrote one of the most important fugitive slave narratives and a striking array of subsequent self-narratives so inventively shifting in content, form, and textual presentation as to place him second only to Frederick Douglass among nineteenth-century African American autobiographers.
Ezra Greenspan has selected the best of Brown's work in a range of fields including fiction, drama, history, politics, autobiography, and travel. The volume opens with an introductory essay that places Brown and his work in a cultural and political context. Each chapter begins with a detailed introductory headnote, and the contents are closely annotated; there is also a selected bibliography. This reader offers an introduction to the work of a major African American writer who was engaged in many of the important debates of his time.
‘One thing is certain, - that there is a mustering among the masses, the world over; and there is a dis irae coming on, sooner or later.’
Viewed by many as fuelling the abolitionist movement of the 1850s and laying the groundwork for the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sentimental and moral tale of slaves attempting to secure their freedom was one of the most popular books of the nineteenth century. Centred round the long-suffering Uncle Tom, a devout Christian slave who endures cruelty and abuse from his owners, Tom is often celebrated as the first black hero in American fiction who refuses to obey his white masters. With other strong protagonists such as Eliza, a courageous slave who flees to the North with her son when she learns that he is to be sold, Beecher Stowe highlighted the plight of southern slaves and the breaking up of black families. Not without its controversy, more recent criticism has suggested that the novel contributed negatively to the stereotyping of the black community.