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

Ben (former slave)

Cleveland, OH, was founded in 1796. Ben, an escaped slave who had lived on the Young Farm in Kentucky, is recognized as the first African American in Cleveland. He came to the city in 1806 after the family he was with drowned in a lake, and Ben almost froze to death. It was thought that Ben left Cleveland and moved to Canada.

His story, including his near capture, is told on p. 12 of Cleveland's Harbor, by J. C. Ehle, W. D. Ellis, and N. A. Schneider. An earlier account can be found on pp. 339-343 in the Early History of Cleveland Ohio, by C. Whittlesey [available full view at Google Books].

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Cleveland's harbor : the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority
NKAA Source: Early history of Cleveland, Ohio ; including original papers and other matter relating to the adjacent country, with biographical notices of the pioneers and surveyors

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ben (former slave),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 15, 2021,

Last modified: 2020-10-16 17:25:42