Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of a colonial family, who gained renown as the author of the classic American memoir Two Years Before the Mast. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves and freedmen.
Dana was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 1, 1815 into a family that had settled in colonial America in 1640, counting Anne Bradstreet among its ancestors. His father was the poet and critic Richard Henry Dana Sr. As a boy, Dana studied in Cambridgeport under a strict schoolmaster named Samuel Barrett, alongside fellow Cambridge native and future writer James Russell Lowell. Barrett was infamous as a disciplinarian who punished his students for any infraction by flogging. He also often pulled students by their ears and, on one such occasion, nearly pulled Dana’s ear off, causing the boy’s father to protest enough that the practice was abolished.