Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861

By John Ernest | Go to book overview

epilogue
William Wells Brown and the Performance of History

I began chapter 1 with a discussion of William Wells Brown, and it seems only fitting to end this study by returning to Brown's work. Indeed, those familiar with African American literature published before the Civil War might think that the historical work of William Wells Brown has been conspicuously missing from this study, though I have referred to his work frequently along the way. He is an obvious candidate for extensive commentary in a book like this, and those who do write or comment on the tradition of African American historical scholarship generally mention Brown along with George Washington Williams and William C. Nell as the pioneers in the field. Moreover, the concerns I have focused on in this study—among others, fragmented and strategically juxtaposed narratives, appropriations of white nationalist and philosophical discourse, and a studied reorientation of biblical hermeneutics in accordance with the terms and condition of oppressed communities—are all concerns central to Brown's greatest achievement, Clotel; or, The President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States (1853). One might well expect Brown to be a more prominent figure in this book, but I have limited myself to a field of concerns that kept me from a sustained discussion of Brown's work. I have not included Clotel, for example, because of my decision to focus primarily on nonfictional

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