September 5, 2014 Biography of America's First Black Novelist Is Subject of Book Event

Author Ezra Greenspan to Discuss Life and Work of William Wells Brown

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or
Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or

Author Ezra Greenspan will discuss and sign his new book “William Wells Brown: An African American Life” (Norton, 2014) on Friday, Sept. 12, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

William Wells Brown (1814-1884) was born a slave and kept functionally illiterate until he was 19, when he escaped. He became an agent of the Underground Railroad, an antislavery activist and a self-taught writer and orator. Brown penned “Clotel” in 1853. The first novel by an African American, it is a fictionalized account of the fate of Thomas Jefferson’s black daughters. The novel was quite controversial in its day.

Greenspan’s work sets Brown’s life in the context of his times, creating a portrait of a writer who dared to live and explore the racial complexities of 19th-century America.

Greenspan is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Chair in Humanities and professor of English at Southern Methodist University. He is also the editor of the anthology “William Wells Brown: ‘Clotel’ and Other Writings” (Library of America).

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PR 14-155
ISSN 0731-3527