William Wells Brown was born in Kentucky, 1814, to a slave mother and a slaveholder. In January 1834, Brown escaped to freedom becoming a fugitive slave in Canada. William W. Brown an antislavery lecturer, novelist, playwright, and author was one of the most prominent and prolific African American in the mid-nineteenth century. .
After seizing his freedom, Brown (who received his middle and last name from an Ohio Quaker who helped him get to Canada) worked for nine years as a steamboat man on Lake Erie and a conductor for the Underground Railroad in Buffalo, New York. In 1843, the fugitive slave became a lecturing agent for the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society. Moving to Boston in 1847, he wrote the first, and still the most famous, version of his autobiography, Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave. Written by Himself, which went through four American and five British editions before 1850, earning its author international fame.
Brown's abolitionist career was marked by a turning point in the summer of 1843 when Buffalo hosted a national antislavery convention and the National Convention of Colored Citizens. Brown's expanded service to the antislavery community brought an invitation to lecture before the American Anti- Slavery Society in 1847, which landed him a job as Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society lecture agent. .
The Narrative of William Wells Brown, A Fugitive Slave was written in 1847, which was the first, and still famous, version of his autobiography. In 1848, the second edition of Brown's Narrative, slightly but significantly revised and expanded by a lengthy appendix, was published in a printing of two thousand, which quickly sold out. A third edition followed, and in May of 1849 a fourth expanded once again. Brown gave a history of his own sufferings in slavery, as well as the sufferings of others whom he was acquainted, or which he had immediate observation.