The Life of William Apess, Pequot

By Philip F. Gura

216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 halftone, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4228-4
    Published: February 2018
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1999-6
    Published: March 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4284-8
    Published: March 2015

H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

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The Pequot Indian intellectual, author, and itinerant preacher William Apess (1798–1839) was one the most important voices of the nineteenth century. Here, Philip F. Gura offers the first book-length chronicle of Apess's fascinating and consequential life. After an impoverished childhood marked by abuse, Apess soldiered with American troops during the War of 1812, converted to Methodism, and rose to fame as a lecturer who lifted a powerful voice of protest against the plight of Native Americans in New England and beyond. His 1829 autobiography, A Son of the Forest, stands as the first published by a Native American writer. Placing Apess's activism on behalf of Native American people in the context of the era's rising tide of abolitionism, Gura argues that this founding figure of Native intellectual history deserves greater recognition in the pantheon of antebellum reformers. Following Apess from his early life through the development of his political radicalism to his tragic early death and enduring legacy, this much-needed biography showcases the accomplishments of an extraordinary Native American.

About the Author

Philip F. Gura is William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His many books include Truth's Ragged Edge: The Early American Novel and American Transcendentalism: A History, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
For more information about Philip F. Gura, visit the Author Page.


“[An] engaging, insightful, and thoroughly detailed biography.”--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"This outstanding biography is essential reading for those interested in either Native American studies or American literature."--Library Journal, starred review

"Well-researched and enlightening." --Booklist

"A readable book that belongs in all undergraduate collections."--CHOICE

“Engaging and well researched. . . . Sophisticated and accessible, especially as a work of Indian-white history.”--Reviews in American History

“Gura helps readers understand the intersections of forms of racial prejudice, discrimination, and oppression in early America.”--Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life

Multimedia & Links

Listen: Gura talks to Frank Stasio on WUNC's The State of Things (4/8/2015, running time 19:07).