Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



Dr. Todd Lawrence, Dr. Elizabeth Wilkinson, Dr. Laura Zebuhr


In this essay I argue philosophical connections between Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), and William Wells Brown’s premiere African American Novel, Clotel: Or the President’s Daughter. Clotel was published in 1853 to a transatlantic audience with an abolitionist imperative. Previous readings of Brown's work have subdued his connections to Thomas Jefferson’s settler colonialist project of western expansion in Notes. When we read Clotel as an American Pragmatic Philosophical text we unearth a discourse in the long nineteenth century. This discourse is of nationalist philosophy in which transnational discourse takes place. Brown’s sentimentalist novel was written in response to the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) which inhibited the geographic flow of fugitive slaves and free African Americans across the expanding nation. Brown's fiction is one that remembers Thomas Jefferson and revises popular fugitive slave representations in order to critique the national experience of freedom and promote Brown's own philosophy.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.