The Role of England in Clotel

England plays multiple roles in Clotel The most important role would be a “mother.” When I say, mother, I mean as in England created (birthed) America. Even before America was America it referred to England as like a mother. This can be seen in Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” insinuating England as a mother.  The reason this “mother” […]


Clotel by William Wells Brown follows the enslaved progeny of Thomas Jefferson through the deep south in the early 1800s. Clotel and her sister are the daughters of Jefferson. The first chapter of the book describes their being sold at auction. By this, we are right away made aware of how damning it is to be […]

The Slave Auction and American Exceptionalism

A historical novel borrowed from historical truth, Clotel is the tragic tale of three generations of biracial women in the antebellum south, where William Wells Brown dives deep into the issues of enslavement, politics, and religion in America. He interweaves this dramatic tale where enslavement is justified due to religious doctrine that classified certain skin tones […]

Clotel, Contradictions, and Challenges to Southern Exceptionalism

Throughout Clotel, William Wells Brown’s ideologies and messages at times seem to contradict each other. The reader is left to distinguish if these contradictions, such as characterizing Sam in an anti-slavery novel, are because of this own failings and/or internalized racism within the author, or if they are intentional contradictions to highlight the perfidious nature […]

Pro-Slavery Christianity?

William Wells Brown’s novel Clotel serves as a major milestone. Not only because it’s considered the first published novel to be written by an African American, but because it forces its readers to really think about slavery and the effects of it. More than that, it shows us how Christians at that time thought. Often […]

Currer’s Experience with Southern Exceptionalism

The dramatic and sensational narrative that William Wells Brown crafts in Clotel captivates readers and pushes them to explore the principles of slavery and politics in early America. “Slavery” is a vast reference to the host of race-driven issues that perpetuated in the country, containing subsets of conflicts in colorism, religion, and regional loyalism for […]

William Wells Brown & Clotel

This week we’re reading William Wells Brown’s Clotel. Supplementary Reading (select one): “Clotel,” Hereford Times (17 December 1853) — Starts on page 215 “W.W. Brown’s New Work,” National Anti-Slavery Standard 31 December 1853 (Review republished from the London Eastern Star) — Starts on page 218 “Clotel” Anti-Slavery Advocate 2 (January 1854) — Starts on page […]