School's History

  • The school was named in honor of a Lexington native who was the first African-American to publish a novel, a play, a travel book, a book-length historical account of the Civil War, a military study and a study of African-American sociology. Brown advocated prison reform, temperance and equal rights for women, and was a dynamic spokesman for the abolitionist movement.

    More About William Brown

    William Wells Brown became the first African-American to publish anovel, a play, a travel book, a book-length historical account of the Civil War, a military study and a study of African-American sociology. A practicing physician, he advocated prison reform, temperance and equal rights for women and was a dynamic spokesman for the abolitionist movement.

    Brown was born near Lexington, Kentucky, in 1814. His father was George Higgins, a white plantation owner, but his mother was a black slave. He adopted the name of his friend, Wells Brown, a Quaker who had helped him obtain his freedom. Brown became a conductor on the Underground Railroad and worked on a Lake Erie steamer ferrying slaves to freedom in Canada. In 1843 Brown became a lecturing agent for the New York Anti-Slavery Society. After obtaining a reputation as one of the movement's best orators, Brown was employed by the American Anti-Slavery Society where he worked closely with William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. 

    Brown, who settled in Boston, published his autobiography, Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, in 1847. He obtained a living lecturing on slavery and temperance reform in America and Europe. This inspired his book, Three Years in Europe(1852). 

    In 1853 Brown published Clotel, a story about Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings. The book is believed to be the first novel to be published by an African-American. Brown also wrote a play, The Escape (1858) and several historical works including The Black Man (1863), The Negro in the American Revolution (1867), The Rising Son (1873) and another volume of autobiography, My Southern Home (1880). William Wells Brown died on the 6th November, 1884, in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

A drawn portrait of William Wells Brown