Clotel or the President's Daughter

Clotel or the President's Daughter

Clotel or the President's Daughter

Clotel or the President's Daughter


Originally published in 1853, Clotel is the first novel by an African American. William Wells Brown, a contemporary of Frederick Douglass, was well known for his abolitionist activities. In Clotel, the author focuses on the experiences of a slave woman: Brown treats the themes of gender, race, and slavery in distinctive ways, highlighting the mutability of identity as well as the absurdities and cruelties of slavery. The plot includes several mulatto characters, such as Clotel, who live on the margins of the black and white worlds, as well as a woman who dresses as a man to escape bondage; a white woman who is enslaved; and a famous white man who is mistaken for a mulatto. In her Introduction, scholar Joan E. Cashin highlights the most interesting features of this novel and its bold approach to gender and race relations. This volume, the latest in the American History Through Literature series, is suitable for a variety of undergraduate courses in American history, cultural history, women's studies, and slavery.


Novelists, poets, and essayists often use history to illuminate their understanding of human interaction. At times these works also illuminate our history. They also help us better understand how people in different times and places thought about their own world. Popular novels are themselves artifacts of history.

This series is designed to bring back into print works of literature--in the broadest sense of the term--that illuminate our understanding of U.S. history. Each book is introduced by a major scholar, who places the book in a context, and also offers some guidance to reading the book as "history." the editor will show us where the author of the book has been in error, as well as where the author is accurate. Each reprinted work also includes a few documents to illustrate the historical setting of the work itself.

Books in this series will primarily fall into three categories. First, we will reprint works of "historical fiction"--books that are essentially works of history in a fictional setting. Rather than simply fiction about the past, each will be first-rate history presented through the voices of fictional characters, or through fictional presentations of real characters in ways that do not distort the historical record. Second, we will reprint works of fiction, poetry, and other forms of literature that are primary sources of the era in which they were written. Finally, we will republish nonfiction such as autobiographies, reminiscences, essays, and journalistic exposes, and even works of history that also fall into the general category of literature.

Paul Finkelman . . .

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