The Brown family, including John and his brother Moses, were among the wealthiest and most influential members of the colonial and New Nation period. The Browns’ business dealings centered on trading African captives until an ill-fated 1764 voyage of the family’s ship Sally—half of the African captives aboard died, their names lost to history. Moses Brown turned away from the slave trade and became a fierce abolitionist. In contrast, John Brown continued in the trade, building the fortune that would fund Brown University. To address John Brown’s legacy as an enslaver, the university opened the John Carter Brown Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.
Tours of John Brown’s home, which is owned by the Rhode Island Historical Society, address enslavement, the fortune John Brown amassed as a result of the slave trade, and discuss the Brown brothers’ opposing views on enslavement.