Back to top

William Wells Brown (American National Biography)

Scholarship

R. J. M. Blackett, "Brown, William Wells," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00098.html.

In January 1834 Brown made another, this time successful, attempt to escape, crossing the Ohio River to Cincinnati and on to Cleveland…During his years in Cleveland, Brown worked as a boatman on Lake Erie and was an active member of the local Underground Railroad, ferrying fugitives across the lake to Canada. He was also active in local and regional abolitionist associations and the Negro Convention Movement. He was employed as a lecturing agent by the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society in 1843 and later in a similar position by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. These agencies aimed to spread the abolitionist message throughout the state, in small towns and hamlets, in an attempt to persuade their listeners to join the anti-slavery cause. By the latter part of the decade, he had become a major figure in the American abolitionist movement.

Brown's Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself was published in 1847 and became an immediate bestseller; 3,000 copies of the first edition were sold in six months. The book went through four editions in two years with sales of 10,000 copies. Brown's rise to prominence in abolitionist circles and the success of his book led to his appointment as a delegate to the Peace Congress in Paris in 1849. Presided over by French author Victor Hugo, the congress was attended by 800 delegates…After the meeting, Brown went to London, where he spent the next five years working to win British support for the American abolitionist movement.

How to Cite This Page: "William Wells Brown (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/20781.