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Clotel: or, the President's Daughter

William Wells Brown

Book Overview: 

Clotel; or, The President's Daughter is a novel by William Wells Brown, a fugitive from slavery and abolitionist. It is often considered the first African-American novel. This novel focuses on the difficult lives of mulattoes in America and the "degraded and immoral condition of the relation of master and slave in the USA" (Brown). It is about the tragic lives of Currer, Althesea, and Clotel. In the novel, Currer is the former mulatto mistress of President Thomas Jefferson who together have two daughters, Althesea and Clotel. Because she was beautiful and the mistress of Jefferson, Currer and her daughters lived a comfortable life, this changed when her master passes away. In the end, Currer and Althesea are auctioned to the notorious slave trader, Dick Walker. Clotel is bought by her lover Horatio Green. The separation of these three women is just the beginning of the injustices they face.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Bible against our social economy, they must fall. Nothing ever yet stood long against Christianity. Those who say that religious instruction is inconsistent with our peculiar civil polity, are the worst enemies of that polity. They would drive religious men from its defence. Sooner or later, if these views prevail, they will separate the religious portion of our community from the rest, and thus divided we shall become an easy prey. Why, is it not better that Christian men should hold slaves than unbelievers? We know how to value the bread of life, and will not keep it from our slaves."

"Well, every one to his own way of thinking," said Carlton, as he changed his position. "I confess," added he, "that I am no great admirer of either the Bible or slavery. My heart is my guide: my conscience is my Bible. I wish for nothing further to satisfy me of my duty to man. If I act rightly to mankind, I shall fear nothing." Carlton had drunk too deeply of the bitter . . . Read More

Community Reviews

"Clotel" is the story of a slave woman who was allegedly the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. At the time the book was published in 1853, rumors were rife about Jefferson's relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings. We now know, through DNA testing, that those rumors were true -- but the author could

It wasn’t really about a Clotel all that much.
The asides to the reader are an odd choice, but interesting and really good.

How the actual hell have I never heard of this book before?

Clotel: or, the President's Daughter is a masterpiece of historical fiction that rings with historical truth. Based on facts and narratives that William Wells Brown collected on his own journey out of slavery, Clotel unashamedly looks many f

The first time I read this book I was a Sophomore in college (mandatory reading). To sum it up, my recollection of the fictional work was that it was simply about a mulatto and the fact that her father was Thomas Jefferson. I recall how in depth the book explored slavery's destructive effects on Afr

2021 Reread review:
This is really well done and truly should be required reading in place of Twain across the nation.
This includes a lot of true history that serves as a lesson on chattel slavery interspersed with the fictional tale of Clotel and her family.
The author really is able to succinctly po

There is something audacious and true about this book, however fictional. The first time I came to the sentence calling Clotel the daughter of Thomas Jefferson I felt the boldness of that sentence, and the truth of it, that it was known even in 1853 that Jefferson had children who were slaves. The n

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