"The Antebellum South: The Slave Stories of William Wells Brown"

Essay by jamesbeisleyHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2006

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The ante-bellum period was an age of racism and an age of suffering. The author of the account entitled "A Narrative" was William Wells Brown. Brown was one of seven children; however, no two of them were of the same father. Brown's mother was a woman by the name of Elizabeth, and his father was a Mr. George Higgins: a white relative of Brown's first owner. William Wells Brown was born in Lexington, Kentucky. While his birth date was unbeknownst to him, the event was recorded in his master's records.

Mr. Brown's narrative starts in St. Charles, Missouri; the tale soon expands to St. Louis, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; and the general Mississippi River Valley. Through out his journeys, Brown is treated both fairly and poorly, given responsibility and not trusted, and always a slave. During the story, Brown tells of other slaves' stories and fates, living out his life through the lives of others.

While a babe, Brown was carried on his mother's back through the fields, and soon was made a house servant in the plantation house. While his first master was not at home much of his childhood, Brown describes his Northern overseer. The man is stereotyped as, like most Northerner slave overseers, being meaner than the Southerners that held that same position.

William Wells Brown does not fall under the average ante-bellum slave characterizations. While most black slaves were uneducated and illiterate, Brown's writing is both eloquent and well structured. He held an assortment of jobs and positions throughout his life and except in a few circumstances, did not work in the fields of a plantation. Brown was not rebellious, nor a troublemaker; he attempted an escape on one occasion, but the consequences cautioned him from making another attempt until much later in life.