The first play published by an African-American, this comic 1858 melodrama about two slaves who secretly marry explores the racial tensions between North and South in the years just before the Civil War. With its mix of action, comedy, social commentary and an authenticity only a former slave could recreate, The Escape is essential reading for students of black history and literature. It is also a remarkable glimpse at characters and situations rarely seen from the contemporary black perspective. Born into slavery, American author WILLIAM WELLS BROWN (1814-1884) escaped to the North where he became a prominent abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian. His novel, Clotel: or, The President's Daughter, is considered by historians to be the first novel written by an African American. His other works include The Negro in the American Rebellion and The Black Man.