"THE FIRST HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MILITARY SERVICE IN THE CIVIL WAR": FIRST EDITION OF BLACK HISTORIAN WILLIAM WELLS BROWN'S NEGRO IN THE AMERICAN REBELLION. 1867, VERY SCARCE IN ORIGINAL CLOTH
BROWN, William Wells. The Negro in the American Rebellion. His Heroism and his Fidelity. Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1867. Octavo, original gilt-stamped green cloth. $3800.
First edition of Brown's seminal Civil War history of African Americans, widely researched and published shortly after war's end, a defining work by Brown, born enslaved and long forced to live as a fugitive abroad, here placing "Black men in the center," replacing the “standard figures with a Black set of military heroes," a handsome copy in original cloth.
Born enslaved, William Wells Brown became "the most pioneering and accomplished African American writer and cultural impresario of the 19th century." His Negro in the American Rebellion broke ground as "the first history of African American military service in the Civil War." In its pages, "Brown's history-making pen put Black men in the center and relegated everyone else to the periphery," even Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and Lee. "Brown replaced these standard figures with a Black set of military heroes," paying particular attention "to the men of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiments, tracking and highlighting their collective accomplishments and singling out various individuals for praise." Brown began writing this foundational work "in the fall of 1866, but he was probably stockpiling sources as soon as African American units entered the conflict in force. He drew his material primarily from four kinds of sources: the torrent of war news coverage pouring out of the press, the slew of Civil War histories… battlefield accounts he received fresh from returning veterans or their intimates, and an array of materials saved up from previous books" (Greenspan, 4, 432-35).
While much of America long erased Brown from memory after his death in 1884, his legacy was held fast by "the African American community… Brown's name would frequently be the answer to questions of general Black knowledge: who wrote the first Black play? The first history of African Americans?… On the eve of WWII, as tank units conducted military exercises in Boston Common," a journalist highlighted the importance of this work as one of the first histories of Black combat service (Greenspan, 511-12). Brown was not only a dedicated Black and military historian, but also the author "of the earliest African American travelogue (Three Years in Europe), the earliest African American novel (the now canonized Clotel), [and] the earliest printed African American play (The Escape)" (Journal of the Civil War Era). Brown "devoted his life to a pioneering quest… to make a home in the world. His writing is its final address: (Greenspan, 51). Sabin 8595. Blockson 3521. Work, 398.
Text very fresh, front free endpaper corner clipped, expert repairs to inner hinges, with bright gilt-stamped original cloth. A very desirable near-fine copy.