My Southern Home

The South and Its People

By William Wells Brown

Edited and with an Introduction by John Ernest

300 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7208-6
    Published: November 2011
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6935-2
    Published: November 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4044-8
    Published: November 2011

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The culmination of William Wells Brown's long writing career, My Southern Home is the story of Brown's search for a home in a land of slavery and racism. Brown (1814-84), a prolific and celebrated abolitionist and writer often recognized as the first African American novelist for his Clotel (1853), was born enslaved in Kentucky and escaped to Ohio in 1834.

In this comprehensive edition, John Ernest acts as a surefooted guide to this seminal work, beginning with a substantial introduction placing Brown's life and work in cultural and historical context. Brown addresses from a post-emancipation vantage point his early experiences and understanding of the world of slavery and describes his travels through many southern states. The text itself is presented in its original form, while Ernest's annotations highlight its layered complexity and document the many instances in which Brown borrows from his own earlier writings and the writings of others to form an underlying dialogue. This edition sheds new light on Brown's literary craft and provides readers with the maps they need to follow Brown on his quest for home in the chaotic social landscape of American southern culture in the final decades of the nineteenth century.

About the Author

John Ernest is Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of American Literature at West Virginia University. He is author or editor of nine books, including Chaotic Justice: Rethinking African American Literary History.
For more information about William Wells Brown, visit the Author Page.


“The book will be valuable in many disciplines. Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, general readers.”--Choice

“Invites a deeper appreciation if not a reconsideration of Brown’s place in the American literary canon; it should prove to be a valued and welcome volume to historians and literary scholars alike.”--West Virginia History

“A literary achievement that contributes to a better understanding of the ‘peculiar institution’ [of slavery].”--Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians

"This superb volume will instantly emerge as the very best edition of My Southern Home and as one of the finest editions of Brown's fascinating writings."--Robert S. Levine, University of Maryland

"Contemporary of Frederick Douglass, precursor to Langston Hughes, and obvious progenitor of Richard Pryor, William Wells Brown connects the dots between African American street and schoolhouse literature. His classic work, My Southern Home, is a scrapbook portraying the good and bad, the ugly and beautiful of nineteenth-century African America via portraits of devilish tricksters, erudite political analysts, sorrowful situations, and empowering encounters."--Frances Smith Foster, Emory University