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"Clotel" by William Wells Brown: An Electronic Scholarly Edition

  • Edited by Christopher Mulvey

The first African American novel, Clotel was published in 1853 in London, when its author was still legally a slave in the United States. The work's stature derives not only from its remarkable origin but from its explosive content, which is freely based on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

Brown went on to publish three additional, and very different, versions of the novel. The problem for scholars and students has always been which text to read. This digital edition of Clotel presents, for the first time together, the full extant texts of the four versions. These texts—618 pages in all, imaged and coded—may be read individually or in parallel, allowing the user to explore the relationships among the various versions. Further functionality allows the reader to access complex historical collation. In addition to illuminating introductory essays, the editor has provided generous biographical, critical, and historical commentary as well as line-by-line annotations to all four texts. Also included is the first reprinting of Miralda, published in installments in the weekly Anglo-African, an anti-slavery newspaper, in the four months before the American Civil War.

Clotel is the first in a series of titles planned for The African American Research Library. The General Editors are Maria I. Diedrich, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Christopher Mulvey.

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