A Description of William Wells Brown's Original Panoramic Views of the Scenes in the Life of an American Slave, from His Birth in Slavery to His Death or His Escape to His First Home of Freedom on British Soil
Black lecturers were successful in Britain partly because they imaginatively promoted and creatively presented their antislavery message. Three black abolitionists, William Wells Brown, Henry "Box" Brown, and J. C. A. Smith, toured Britain with antislavery panoramas during the early 1850s. These were illustrated presentations containing a series of scenes portraying slave life. Panoramas used by the two Browns were particularly effective because they included scenes of their own escapes. While living in London, William Wells Brown noticed that an exhibit depicting the India Route attracted considerable public attention. Acting on an idea he had developed three years earlier, Brown commissioned "skilled artists" to paint a panorama on American slavery. By September 1850, the artists had completed a twenty-four-scene canvas based largely on Brown's firsthand knowledge of the peculiar institution. Brown composed a forty-eight-page pamphlet which was to be used in tandem with the panorama and which contained a preface and a brief narrative description of each scene. It was published in London during October and was entitled (in typical nineteenth-century fashion) A Description of William Wells Brown's Original Panoramic Views of the Scenes in the Life of an American Slave, from His Birth in Slavery to His Death or His Escape to His First Home of Freedom on British Soil ( London, 1850). Brown first exhibited the panorama in Newcastle- upon-Tyne during late October. Farrison, William Wells Brown, 174-76.
During the autumn of 1847 1 visited an exhibition of a Panorama 1 of the River Mississippi, which was then exhibited in Boston, United States. I was somewhat amazed at the very mild manner in which the "Peculiar Institution" of the Southern States was there represented, and it occurred to me that a painting, with as fair a representation of American Slavery as could be given upon canvass, would do much to disseminate truth upon this subject, and hasten the downfall of the greatest evil that now stains the character of the American people. I, therefore, commenced collecting a number of sketches of plantations in the Slave States, illustrating the life of the Slave, from his birth, to his death in bondage, or his flight from the "Stars and Stripes" to the British possessions of North America. After considerable pains and expense, I succeeded in obtaining