"Narrative of William Wells Brown, A Fugitive Slave," (1847) is a fascinating and emotional account of the horrors of American slavery. The first and most interesting point worth examining in William Wells Brown's narrative is how the title of his book is written. When one first reads the added, "written by himself" below the narrative headline, it seems a bit odd and redundant. However, one realizes that the identification of a slave narrator as literate and capable of independent literary expression was an important and crucial aspect in fighting slavery and juxtaposing the myths and negative beliefs that gave slavery its power and legitimacy. Black people were not just slaves, that were writers with their own opinions and beliefs. .
Brown provides readers with narratives of daily life on the plantations, at slave auctions and during the dark hours of individual pain but what makes his narratives so unique is his constant reference to all these situations in the paradoxical realm of democracy and religion. It is very eye opening to read of Brown's harsh condemnation of the religious basis and justification of slavery in the south when he (on more than one occasion) highlights the irony of the mistreatment of blacks by their white masters. In Chapter XI, Brown writes of his first attempt to escape slavery by traveling to Canada and then adds, "American democracy behind, liberty ahead." To think of the United States in a twenty- first century mindset would be to read this statement as paradoxical, however, it was the nation's democracy that created slavery and demoted him to less of a man. .
Brown not only attacks political institutions for slavery but religious institutions as well when he writes, "An American citizen was fleeing from a democratic republican, christian government to receive protection under the monarchy of Great Britain" (Canada). This really brings to light the fact that individuals can corrupt institutions that should be full of freedom, equality and goodwill in order to interpret these institutions in ways that advance their greedy and hateful desires.