Clotel: Or, The President’s Daughter, A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States is principally about the fate of an African American female slave, Clotel, who is described by William Wells Brown as the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. In her earlier years, Clotel’s mother, Currer, was a servant of Jefferson before his departure to Washington “to fill a government appointment,” at which time Currer was passed on to another master. In the context of the novel, Currer’s daughters are the offspring of Thomas Jefferson. As a quadroon, Clotel is much sought by the white males of Richmond, who viewed quadroon and mulatto females as a select choice for concubinage.
Brown’s book, however, does not begin with the story of Currer and her children, but rather with the “Narrative of the Life and Escape of William Wells Brown,” a biographical sketch of Brown’s own experiences of bondage and his eventual escape to the North. The novel itself begins with the dilemma faced by Currer, who along with her daughters is sold on the auction block in Richmond after the death of her master. Clotel is bought by Horatio Green; Currer and her younger daughter, Althesa, are purchased by a slave trader who transports them south. Currer is sold in Natchez, Mississippi, to the Reverend John Peck. Althesa continues to New Orleans, where she is auctioned and purchased by James Crawford as a house servant.
The separation of Currer and her daughters provides the basis for the development of the three primary story lines, Clotel’s, Currer’s, and Althesa’s. Clotel’s story involves her life as a concubine of Horatio Green in Richmond, where she has been provided with a house and eventually gives birth to a daughter, Mary. Clotel’s relationship with Horatio Green is characterized by the language of the...
(The entire section is 746 words.)