William Wells Brown: “Slavery As It Is”

(1847)

“Slavery As It Is” was an address presented before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem, Massachusetts, in November 1847. This speech by the African American author and abolitionist William Wells Brown offers an eloquent condemnation of slavery in the antebellum United States. After spending the first two decades of his life in slavery, Brown was particularly qualified to testify to the evils of slavery. The lecture was delivered shortly after the publication of his autobiography, Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself, so the lecture was also part of a promotion for his book. Many of the ideas and some of the passages in the address also appear in his Narrative.

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Nineteenth-century lithograph showing African Americans picking cotton (Library of Congress)

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