"THIS IS A NEW ERA… EVERY EYE IS NOW TURNED TO THE SOUTH, LOOKING FOR ANOTHER NAT TURNER": FIRST REVISED AND EXPANDED EDITION OF WILLIAM WELLS BROWN'S THE BLACK MAN, PUBLISHED SAME YEAR AS THE FIRST IN THE MIDST OF THE CIVIL WAR, WITH HIS BIOGRAPHIES OF OVER 55 BLACK LEADERS, INCLUDING NAT TURNER, PHILLIS WHEATLEY AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS, IN ORIGINAL CLOTH
BROWN, William Wells. The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements. New York: Thomas Hamilton, 1863. Octavo, original gilt- and blindstamped brown cloth; pp. (i-v) 6-312. $2800.
First revised and expanded edition, issued same year as the first, of Brown's groundbreaking volume with biographies of over 55 black men and women across history, including his controversial biography of Nat Turner, along with four biographies not in the first edition, notably that of Capt. Callioux—"the first black warrior-hero of the Civil War"—Brown's career "is one of the most extraordinary in 19th-century American literature," a handsome copy in original cloth.
"Born into slavery, Brown escaped to freedom and became the first African American to publish a novel and a play. Throughout his life he fought against slavery as a writer and orator, gaining international fame" (Rodriquez, Encyclopedia of Emancipation, 95). As a fugitive in the 1840s, he was active in the Underground Railroad, and published his autobiographical Narrative in 1847. On traveling to Europe, he was forced to remain abroad due to the Fugitive Slave Law. Returning near the outbreak of the Civil War, he embarked on a "new literary challenge: the writing of history. The immediate driving force was the knowledge that he and his contemporaries were living in momentous times… ripe for Brown's new undertaking The Black Man was the first of three histories of people of African American and pan-African descent" (Greenspan, William Wells Brown). "It is difficult to imagine any one of his contemporaries who contributed as much or as richly to so many genres as did William Wells Brown" (Henry Louis Gates Jr).
In The Black Man, authored and published in the midst of the Civil War, Brown produced an exceptional volume of over 55 past and present leaders, including figures such as Benjamin Banneker, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Crispus Attucks, Alexandre Dumas, Phillis Wheatley, Denmark Vesey, Francis Ellen Watkins and Frederick Douglass, as well as fellow fugitives such as Madison Washington, Henry Bibb and a figure Brown calls, "A Man Without a Name." Brown's goal, he would write, was to correct a wrong by singling out black men and women too long ignored or belittled: those "who, by their own genius, capacity and intellectual development, surmounted the many obstacles which slavery and prejudice have thrown in their way, and raised themselves to positions of honor and influence." He devotes one of his first and most controversial biographies to Nat Turner. It is, in many ways, Brown's pointed challenge to views of the 1831 Rebellion. Turner, he writes, is a man to "whom the American people are not prepared to do justice." Relying extensively on Thomas Gray's Confessions (1831), Brown portrays a religious, intelligent man, beaten down by slavery, whose command of rebel slaves taught the slave owner that "he lives upon a volcano, which may burst forth at any moment, and give freedom to his victim… This is a new era," Brown concludes, "and we are in the midst of the most important crisis that our country has yet witnessed… Every eye is now turned to the south, looking for another Nat Turner." Brown's career "is one of the most extraordinary in 19th-century American literature" (Greenspan). This first "revised and enlarged edition," second edition overall, contains four biographies not present in the same year's 288-page first edition: artisan Joseph Carter; Union scout James Lawson; Union Captain Joseph Howard of the Second Louisiana Native Guards who fought the racism of Northern Union officers to command his black soldiers in battle, and Union Captain Andre Callioux, now recognized as "the first black warrior-hero of the Civil War, an officer in the first black regiment to be officially mustered into the United States Army and the first to participate in a significant battle. Both in life and in death, he did much to inspire, embolden and unify people of African descent in New Orleans" (New York Times). Also featuring Brown's revised Memoir, along with rear leaf containing "Opinions of the Press," containing praise from Frederick Douglass' Monthly, the Liberator, and other key sources—not present in the first edition. With Brown's Preface, and his introductory essay: "The Black Man and his Antecedents." As issued without dust jacket. Sabin 8589. See Blockson 2396. Contemporary bookplate and owner inscription of attorney Augustus G. Lebroke, dated Sept 11, 1863.
Occasional soiling and foxing, trace of rubbing, faint soiling to boards. A near-fine copy, highly desirable in original cloth.