Horace Mann was born on May 4, 1796, in Franklin, Massachusetts. He graduated from Brown University in 1819 and proceeded to study the law. While learning the law, Mann also worked as a Greek and Latin tutor and also served as a librarian at Brown University. Upon passing the Massachusetts bar exam in 1823, Mann embarked upon a legal career. He also served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1827 to 1833 and in the Massachusetts Senate from 1833 to 1837.
In 1837, Mann secured appointment to the Massachusetts Board of Education. In this position, he emerged as one of the United States’ more well-known educational reformers. He helped establish normal schools, schools specifically created to educate teachers. Mann also increased teacher pay, extended the school day, as well as the school year, and attempted to provide teachers and students with better-equipped classrooms. Besides these innovations, Mann also hosted conventions to educate teachers about new discoveries and methodologies in teaching.
In 1848, Mann resigned from the Massachusetts Board of Education. He then served in the United States House of Representatives from 1848 until 1853, where he opposed slavery and its expansion. In 1852, Mann unsuccessfully sought the governor’s seat of Massachusetts, running for the Free-Soil Party.
Upon the end of Mann’s term in the United States House of Representatives in 1853, he accepted a position at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The Christian Church founded Antioch College in 1852. The college admitted its first students the following year. Antioch's first president was Mann. Although the Christian Church was instrumental in the college’s start, Antioch soon became known for providing a nonsectarian education. Mann remained as the college’s president until his death in 1859.