From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Watson, William

(born: 1823) 

William Watson, a Kentucky native and an escape slave, was an education activist for the coloured in England. In January of 1857, Watson was in London at Trinity Chapel on Peckitt-street, where he delivered a speech on the importance of educating the coloured subjects of the British Empire. A collection was taken at the end of the program. Watson was attempting to raise money for the establishment of societies in various areas of England, and the societies were to oversee the education of coloured persons in a given area. Watson continued with his lectures and in November of 1859, the audience had so few boys that the presentation at the Mechanics' Institution was canceled. Watson was still at his mission in December of 1859 when he delivered a lecture at the Assembly Rooms at the Isle of Wright. The title of the lecture had been used in prior presentations, "Education and Trades of the Coloured Subjects of the Queen in the British Colonies." A collection was taken at the end of Watson's presentation. W. Watson was born in Kentucky where he was a slave. When he was 19 years old, he escaped to Canada, then moved on to England. Watson attended The King's College, located in London, England. For more see "The Coloured population of the British Empire," The York Herald, 01/24/1857, p.7; "Local and District News - Education," Berrow's Worcester Journal, 11/13/1858, p.5; "A Gentleman of Colour," Hampshire Advertiser & Salisbury Guardian, 11/05/1859, p.3; the December 17th, 1859, entry "Lecture by Gentleman of Color" from the Isle of Wight Observer at the Ryde Social Heritage Group website; and "Lecture," Isle of Wight Observer, 12/31/1859, issue 383.

*An email dated October 19, 2020, was received from Nicolas Jouault with an attached newspaper article showing that William Watson was in England as early as 1855. Watson addressed the Working Man's Association while also a student at King's College. Source: "A Meeting was held...," Jersey Independent, 10/20/1855.

In response to our inquiry about W. Watson, the following information on William Watson was transcribed and provided by King's College London. Please note there is a possibility that W. Watson and William Watson may not be the same person. We welcome any additional information.

Source: King's College London Entrance Papers for the Theological Department. Entrance Papers were forms completed on entry listing the name, address and fees paid.

"Name of Student at full length: William Watson
Age last Birthday, with date: 26 - Dec 10th 1849
Under which class of Candidates the Student is admitted:
Candidates Date of Admittance: 12 April 1850
Student's Residence in London: 150 Southwark B[ridge]
Fees for Two Term: £8 8s 0d
Matriculation: £1 1s 0d
Library Fee: £2 2s 0d
Cap and Gown: £1 10s 0d
The Calendar: 2s £13 3s 0d
Paid: 12 April 1850"
In the College Calendars for 1850-1851 and 1851-1852, William Watson is listed in the Theological Department under the 'Class of Candidates. Names of those attending this Class during the past year, who have not yet passed the necessary Examination preparatory to entering upon the full Divinity course.' However, he does not reappear in any of the following Calendars which would indicate that he was no longer attending the College.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Watson, William,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 15, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-01-24 17:58:28