William Wells Brown: How I Got My Name

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The Paul Sawyier Public Library, together with Kentucky Chautauqua, presents "William Wells Brown: How I Got My Name".

William Wells Brown was the first published African American novelist and playwright. Brown was born to an enslaved mother. Due to inadequate record keeping for slaves, the time and place is not assured. He was likely born in 1814 or 1815 in the Mt. Sterling area or in Lexington. Brown experienced the dissolution and sale of his own family and witnessed the harsh and brutal separation of other families in the institution of slavery. After years of failed attempts to escape slavery, for which he was jailed and beaten, Brown finally escaped to a life of freedom in 1834.

William Wells Brown went on to become a public advocate of the abolitionist and temperance movements. His memoir, Narrative of William Wells Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself, had a direct influence on the abolitionist movement. In 1853, he published Clotel; or the President's Daughter and in 1858, a play The Escape; or a Leap for Freedom.

William Wells Brown is portrayed by Virgil Covington, Jr. of Georgetown. Covington received a bachelor of arts in psychology from Wittenberg University, a master’s in education and guidance counseling from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Rank I in education administration from Eastern Kentucky University. He has been a public school teacher, guidance counselor and principal for more than 35 years and received the Milken National Educator Award in 1999. Covington has been a part of many regional productions including those for Bryan Station High School, Wittenberg University, Woodford Theatre, and the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky Chautauqua is an exclusive presentation of Kentucky Humanities with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Christina Lee Brown, the Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation, and PNC.


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