Anna Sewell was born on March 30, 1820, in Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. Her family were devoted Quakers. She was very skilled with horses, and could control them with her voice alone. She always drove with a loose rein, and never, ever used a whip.
The story of Black Beauty is based on Bessie, a horse owned by Anna’s brother. She had a gray pony, and he became Merrylegs in the story.
At that time, horses were not treated well. Many were underfed or lame. They pulled overloaded carts in the hot sun, pouring rain, and snow. Many horses fell dead from exhaustion while they were still in harness. Drivers sometimes beat them. Some horses had their tails docked so they would stand up. Most horses wore bearing reins that held up their neck and head in a painful arch. It cut off their wind, and many horses developed breathing problems.
Anna wanted to change how people thought and felt about the treatment of horses. She wanted us to remember that we share our lives with other creatures that depend on our kindness. Beauty had good owners, too. Sewell wanted to show the difference a person can make in an animal’s life.
In the last 100 years, over 30 million copies of Black Beauty have been printed. That is an all-time record for a book of fiction. George Ansell, founder of an American animal welfare group, had 100,000 copies printed, and gave them to people who worked with horses. Ms. Sewell died on April 25, 1878 in Norfolk.