William Wells Brown (born 1814? in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.—died Nov. 6, 1884, Chelsea, Mass.) was an American novelist who is regarded as the first African-American to publish a novel. His book was called The Narrative of William Wells Brown, an American Slave. It was published in London in 1861 by James Redwood and Company.
Brown's story was widely read when it was first published and has been cited as an influence on other writers including Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. It has also been credited with helping to stir public opinion against slavery. In addition, some have argued that it is possible to classify The Narrative as a black nationalist manifesto since it focuses on the evils of slavery without specifically calling for its end.
In 2001, the New York Times listed Brown as one of "10 Old Men Who Changed History".
He was born into slavery but managed to get an education and become a teacher himself after the American Civil War began. He wrote about his experiences as a slave and as a teacher under the pseudonym "William Wells".
Poetry, theatre, and prose African Americans joined the realm of prose and theatre through the slave narrative. Clotel, or, The President's Daughter, was written by William Wells Brown, an internationally recognized fugitive slave narrator, in 1853. It is considered the first novel by an African American.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Alexander Pushkin features a character named Arsinoe who is described as being black. This work is considered one of the great novels of world literature.
John Quincy Adams was the second president of the United States and the son of John Adams, the first president. He was also the brother of Charles Francis Adams, the sixth president. He was born in 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts. When he was eleven years old, his family moved to Washington, D.C., where he grew up learning from some of the most important people of his time. He entered Harvard College at eighteen years old but left after only a few months to take office as the U.S. Minister to Russia. He served in this position for seven years and then was elected as a representative to the Congress of the United States. In 1801, he was elected as a vice president under Thomas Jefferson and became the thirteenth president upon Jefferson's death that year. He remained in office for only four years before being defeated for re-election by George W. Bush.
Harriet Wilson's "Our Nig" was the first African American woman's novel to be published in the United States (1859). It reflected the problems of northern free blacks' existence. Our Nig was a success from the beginning, and many copies were sold before the end of the year. The book was reprinted five times between 1859 and 1865, when it was replaced by Anna Julia Cooper's more uplifting work, A Voice from the South.
Black writers have been publishing novels since the early 19th century, but it was not until after the Civil War that they began to achieve success. In addition to Harriet Wilson, authors such as Madison Grant, William Alexander Smith, and Charles Waddell are known for their successful novels during this time period. After the war, fewer and fewer black writers were willing to risk publication on being new or unknown. This situation changed in 1872 when Benjamin Henry RELF, a former slave who had learned to read and write while in slavery, published his autobiography entitled My Life with Some Account of His Career. The book was a great success and helped open up literary circles within the black community. More black writers followed Relf's example and began publishing their own works. By 1880, over 100 books had been written by African Americans.