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Sun, 09.05.1830

William Allen born

William Allen

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

William Francis Allen was born in Northborough, Massachusetts in 1830. He graduated Harvard College in 1851; later he traveled and studied in Europe. A Unitarian, he considered the ministry before deciding to pursue 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 their 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, and in 1867, he became professor of ancient languages and history (afterwards 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 PhD (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 the first book of its kind ever published.   William Allen died on December 9, 1889.

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