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Sun, 09.05.1830

William Allen, Editor, and Abolitionist born

William Allen

*William Allen was born on this date in 1830.  He was a white-American classical scholar, abolitionist, and editor of the first book of American slave songs.  

William Francis Allen was born in Northborough, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1851; later, he traveled and studied in Europe. A Unitarian, he considered the ministry before pursuing a literary and scholarly career. In 1856, he became assistant principal at the West Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts, headed by his cousin Nathaniel Topliff Allen. In 1862 he married a former student of the Allen School, Mary Tileston Lambert, daughter of Rev Henry and Catherine Porter Lambert, from West Newton.

In 1863-4, during the American Civil War, William and his wife Mary ran a school for newly emancipated slaves on the Sea Islands of South Carolina, the Port Royal Experiment. His detailed journals about this experience were published in A Yankee Scholar in Coastal South Carolina: William Allen's Civil War Journals.  In 1864-5, he worked as a sanitary agent among black war refugees in Arkansas. He returned to the Lambert family home in West Newton, MA, in 1865 in time for the birth of their daughter Katherine, followed by the death of his wife Mary one month later.

After the war, he taught at Antioch College. In 1867, he became a professor of ancient languages and history (afterward, Latin language and Roman history) at the University of Wisconsin Madison. His daughter Katherine Lambert Allen joined him and his new family in Wisconsin: she later earned a bachelor's degree (1887) and Ph.D. (1898) and became an instructor at the university.  Allen was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1888.  He wrote prolifically for journals and magazines.

His contributions to classical studies chiefly consist of schoolbooks published in the Allen (his brother Joseph Henry Allen) and Greenough series. The Slave Songs of the United States (1867), of which he was joint editor with Charles Pickard Ware and Lucy McKim Garrison, was inspired by his work among the freedmen and was the first book ever published.   William Allen died on December 9, 1889.

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