Brown’s Novel “Clotel, the Presidents’ Daughter”
Historical facts prove that there was the enslavement of African descendants in Europe and America. As it portrays, blacks could always face discrimination and be exposed to harsh living conditions. The novel Clotel, the presidents’ daughter by William Wells Brown tends to relate this discrimination in his narrative. The novel was first published in 1853 in the state of England. Brown is credited with being the first black author whose descendants are from America. Brown depicts how the whites enjoyed freedom over the black. In his narrative, Brown explains how a woman gives birth to two light-skinned girls who are later auctioned in different states. The daughter’s father is believed to be a white man, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of America. The black, light-skinned woman dresses like a man to find her beloved daughter, but upon discovery of pretense, the woman jumps into the river rather than return to bondage.
The larger plan of Brown in his novel is to show the evils of slavery. Brown starts by showing the discrimination that exists between whites and blacks. Blacks are treated like slaves while whites play the master’s role. In Brown’s narrative, the discrimination is based on gender and race, where there are only two races: whites and blacks (Brown 264-265). Race identification is based on skin color, irrespective of origin. For example, light-skinned girls are considered white despite their mother being black and they are auctioned and married in different states.
Another discrimination is based on gender, where white men impregnate black women and then abandon them. In the entire Browns narration, there is no scene where a black man impregnates a white woman. Upon rumors that the two daughters born by the black women belonged to the influential leader, the children are separated from their black parents. It shows men’s supremacy in the white nation and how evil the discrimination affected social values. When the “white woman” was transporting her slave, she had to pretend to be a man to be allowed to travel with her slave. It is a clear indication that slavery basis was about discrimination and undermining human rights.
Brown creates a thread linking leaders from states and national governments to their participation in promoting slavery. The slave Clotel is moving from Mississippi, a different state, to Virginia, another state, which is also practicing black slavery (Brown). Despite teaching each other that every human is equal, top leaders, including the judiciary, sentence a black man to death for fighting for his freedom. Interestingly, the third president of the USA is Thomas Jefferson, who is believed to have fathered the light-skinned slave daughters. Brown creates a thread of series of events linking state and state officials to slavery. His choice in publishing his book in England shows that England was also aware of slavery in America. However, not all whites discriminated against the blacks; when Williams arrives in Canada, the French helps him escape enslavement in Canada.
Brown shows how leaders, states and state officials supported slavery. States such as Virginia and Ohio, countries like Canada, England, and USA and noble leaders like Thomas Jefferson were all linked to slavery. It is notable that the masters lacked convincing reasons to enslave other humans. They knew that all men were equal and deserved freedom, but chose evil acts to satisfy their desires. Although leaders had the power to end these vices instead, they hugely contributed to slavery by inflicting more pain on them. The black man is depicted as a clever person from the novel, but he is not given the freedom to liberate himself with the stereotypes. Therefore, the author is communicating to the audience the impacts and the situation of slavery in the past.
Brown, W. W. “Clotel, or the president’s daughter.” 2016.