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Bill Goodman

This Month's Theme:
Against All Odds
Books for March


Now:
Clotel: or, The President's Daughter
by William Wells Brown

Sunday, March 1 at 6:30/5:30 am CT and 11:30/10:30 pm on KET2

In 1853, when Clotel was published, stories had been circulating about Thomas Jefferson's affair with his enslaved housekeeper, Sally Hemmings. According to rumor, Jefferson had fathered a daughter who was later sold into slavery. This rumor became the basis for Clotel, Lexington native William Wells Brown's exposé of the slave trade.

Brown's dramatic novel explores the tragic fate of Jefferson's fictional daughters and granddaughters. Subtitled "A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States, " it also provides a fascinating window into 19th century American culture and social thought, drawn largely from the author's own experiences.

Born into slavery around 1814, Brown witnessed the cruelties depicted in Clotel firsthand when he was "leased" to a New Orleans slave trader as a teenager. In 1834, he escaped to the North, where his writing and speeches soon drew the interest of abolitionists. In 1854, after spending several years in Europe, he bought his freedom for $300, returned to the United States, and continued to lecture and write until his death some 30 years later.

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