19th Century: 1853

William Wells Brown (1815-1884)

                                                               Clotel; or the President's Daughter

                                                                Chapter XIX:  Escape of Clotel

 

                                                               The fetters galled my weary soul-

                                                                   A soul that seemed but thrown away;

                                                                I spurned the tyrant's base control,

                                                                    Resolved at least the man to play.

     No country has produced so much heroism in so short a time, connected with escapes from peril and oppression, as has occurred in the United States among fugitive slaves, many of whom show great shrewdness in their endeavors to escape from this land of bondage.  A slave was one day seen passing on the high road from a border town in the interior of the state of Virginia to the Ohio river.  The man had neither hat upon his head or coat upon his back.  He was driving before him a very nice, fat pig, and appeared to all who saw him to be a labourer employed on an adjoining farm.  "No negro is permitted to go at large in the Slave States without a written pass from his or her master, except on business in the neighbourhood."  "Where do you live, my boy?" asked a white man of the slave, as he passed a white house with green blinds.  :Jist  up the road, sir," was the answer.  "That's a fine pig.""Yes, sir, marser like dis choat berry much." And the negro dro on as if he was in great haste.  In this way he and the pig travelled more than fifty miles before they reached the Ohio river.  Once at the river they crossed over; the pig was sold; and nine days after the runaway slave passed over the Niagara river, and, for the first time in his life, breathed the air of freedom.

 

[Dying young of consumption, Georgiana Carlton frees her slaves.  Disguised as a "Spanish or Italian gentleman," Clotel goes to Richmond to find her daughter.  Althesa and her husband die in a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans.  Their two daughters are sold into slavery and soon die tragically.  Clotel is apprehended in Richmond and conveyed to Washington, D.C. to be sold back into slavery.  When her dramatic escape is thwarted, she chooses to drown herself in the Potomac River, within sight of the White House.  Clotel's daughter, Mary, ultimately marries the light-skinned George Green, a fugitive slave with whom she is providentially reunited in France after a ten year separtion.]

 

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