This Day in History: 1815-03-15
William Wells Brown, a prominent African-American abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian in the United States, is (estimated to have been) born into slavery in Montgomery County, Kentucky, near the town of Mount Sterling. Brown escaped to Ohio in 1834 at the age of 19. He settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked for abolitionist causes and became a prolific writer. While working for abolition, Brown also supported causes including: temperance, women’s suffrage, pacifism, prison reform, and an anti-tobacco movement. His novel Clotel (1853), considered the first novel written by an African American, was published in London, England, where he resided at the time; it was later published in the United States. Brown was an African-American pioneer in several different literary genres, including travel writing, fiction, and drama. In 1858 he became the first published African-American playwright, and often read from this work on the lecture circuit. Following the Civil War, in 1867 he published what is considered the first history of African Americans in the Revolutionary War. He was among the first writers inducted to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, established in 2013. A public school was named for him in Lexington, Kentucky. Learn more.