Born in Northborough,
Massachusetts, on September 5, 1830, William Francis Allen was the son of a
Unitarian minister. After graduating from Harvard College in 1851, he left
America in 1854 to study in Europe at Göttingen, Berlin, and Rome. He finally
returned to Boston in 1856.
Under the employment of the
Freedmens Aid Commission, Allen began to work on St. Helena Island in South
Carolina in November 1863. Four years later, in 1867, Allen was appointed chair
of ancient languages and history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He
later changed his position at this university to chair of Latin language and
Roman history. During his tenure, he pioneered a new way of teaching history.
His method used a topical system of study and a reading of original sources.
Allen was a prolific writer. His
contributions to classical literature chiefly consist of schoolbooks.
The Slave Songs of the United
States provides directions for singing and musical scores to
accurately preserve the original intonations and rhythms of slave songs. Also
discussed are the intricacies of the language and variations of pronunciation.
In preserving these songs, the authors were preserving an integral part of the
William Francis Allen died on
December 9, 1889.