William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown (c. 1814-84) was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky, but escaped to freedom in Ohio in 1834. After settling in Cleveland, Ohio, he worked on a steamboat in Lake Erie, where he helped many fugitive slaves to flee, and married Elizabeth Schooner. In the 1840s, he and his family moved to New York state, and he began lecturing for the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (1843-49). In 1847, Brown published his first book, Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself, and moved to Boston. During the years 1849-54, he traveled as a lecturer in Europe, meeting many prominent figures and continuing his career as an author with Three Years in Europe; Or, Places I Have Seen and People I Have Met (1852) and Clotel; Or, The President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States, the first novel by an African-American. After friends in England purchased his freedom in 1854, he returned to the United States. There, Brown continued to work as a reformer with interests in the abolitionist movement, temperance, women's suffrage and prison reform. He also wrote four books about African-American history. During the Civil War, Brown joined Frederick Douglass in recruiting blacks for the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment. Lib. 12 January 1855; Lancet, 6 December 1884; DAB, 3: 161; DANB, 71-73.

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