Summary (Chapters 17 to 32) of The American Fugitive in Europe
William Wells Brown, an African-American who was a former slave-turned one of the most prominent advocates of abolitionism in the United States (US), narrated his experiences on his travel to Europe in his book The American Fugitive in Europe. Wells Brown described himself as a fugitive over his fears that he might face arrest due to the implementation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which immediately came into effect shortly after he embarked on a trip to the United Kingdom (UK). A lecturer promoting abolitionism, Wells Brown noted how he encountered staunch oppositions coming from those who went against the prospect of abolition, particularly slave-owners. The lectures of Wells Brown served as intriguing revelations against the US, which was rapidly becoming one of the most powerful nations in the world (Wells Brown, 1855).
One of the most notable episodes in the life of Wells Brown in Europe wherein he encountered anti-abolitionists is when he attended the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, UK, on the grounds of the Crystal Palace. One of the exhibited works of art in Crystal Palace that time is a statue called The Virginian Slave, which stood as somewhat an image mocking the status quo in the US on slavery of African-Americans, particularly women. Wells Brown bravely disputed The Virginia Slave and ended up in a confrontation against American slave owners present in the venue, which then enabled him to hold a demonstration against slavery. Using The Virginia Slave, Wells Brown denounced slavery and relayed his experiences as “an American fugitive slave”. Furthermore, Wells Brown noted that the Greek Slave - a reference to the historically secondary status of women in Ancient Europe, is the “most fitting companion” of The Virginian Slave (Wells Brown, 1855, pp. 193-207).
The prominent image Wells Brown has established for himself as a leading figure in the abolitionist movement led him to publish several academic works during his stay in Europe. The autobiography “Three Years in Europe; Or, Places I Have Seen and People I Have Met”, written in 1852, served as a distinguishing account of Wells Brown on his experiences and learning enhancements as he delivered lectures before European crowds distraught by the practice by US of slavery. Wells Brown also became the first African-American to have written a novel, which he named “Clotel; Or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States”. The aforementioned works of Wells Brown, however, not only intensified his respectable reputation as an anti-abolitionist academic in the eyes of Europeans, but also made his threatening presence more notorious before the watchful American slaveholders (Wells Brown, 1855, pp. 215-222).
Wells Brown profoundly showed bravery in his actions to promote abolitionism in Europe. Despite being a foreign land, Wells Brown felt a justified reciprocation from Europe through the welcoming atmosphere he has received from the people there as he delivered his lectures. Europe, particularly the UK, saw the US back then as a nation that has yet to develop expansively in terms of political and economic power, although the potential of said nation in those areas have become apparent already that time. The progressive nature of European society relative to the somewhat underdeveloped one in the US gained further emphasis through the accounts of slavery of African-Americans Wells Brown has consistently presented in his lectures. Although the US saw the actions of Wells Brown as a plot to humiliate it in the eyes of the international community that time, he nevertheless presented his lectures in an academically sound manner, which proved helpful to convincing many Europeans that indeed, slavery is a practice of many Americans.
The decision of Wells Brown to return to the US is a brave one for his part, despite the fact that his friends have connived in support for his overall security by paying American authorities his freedom. The sheer intensity of the messages Wells Brown has sent out in his lectures in Europe has opened the possibility of outrage against him in the US upon his return, even with the payoff in place. The actions of Wells Brown proved provocative against American slave owners in Europe alone. Hence, Wells Brown proved that he is brave enough to risk his life for more violent reactions against his actions by returning to the US.
Wells Brown, William. The American Fugitive: Sketches of Places and People Abroad. Boston, MA: John P. Jewett and Company, 1855. Print.