Brown, Hallie Quinn

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BROWN, Hallie Quinn

Born circa 10 March 1845, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; died 16 September 1949, Wilberforce, Ohio

Daughter of Thomas and Frances Scroggins Brown

Born the fifth of six children to parents of mixed blood who were freed slaves, Hallie Quinn Brown reminisces in her unpublished autobiography, "As the Mantle Falls," that her childhood home in Philadelphia was the center of many activities both for the African Methodist Episcopal Church and for the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves on their flight to Canada. In 1873 Brown received her B.A. degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio, where she first came under the tutelage of professional elocutionists. She was awarded an honorary Master of Science (1890) and an LL.D. (1936) from Wilberforce.

After graduation, Brown taught in several Southern schools. While in Dayton, Ohio, she enrolled in elocution classes and it was at this time that her career in public speaking began. As an elocutionist she toured several cities in Ohio and Indiana; favorable reception encouraged her to continue on to New York, Philadelphia, and various Southern states.

In 1888 Brown took the first of several tours abroad, speaking and singing spirituals in an effort to raise funds for Wilberforce. On her return to the U.S. in 1892 she accepted the position of Lady Principal at Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute and in 1893 was appointed professor of elocution at Wilberforce. In this same year, Brown was instrumental in forming the Colored Women's League, later known as the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, and was its president from 1920 to 1924. She also became actively involved with the Women's Christian Temperance Union and spoke at several of its meetings and conferences.

Among Brown's works is a textbook on elocution called First Lessons in Public Speaking (1920). It gives little or no concrete help to the neophyte orator, but rather is filled with exhortations to lead a Christian life and imitate the many examples of perseverance given in the book.

In Tales My Father Told (1925), Brown retells stories with which her father, who worked on Mississippi riverboats, entertained the family on long winter nights in their Canadian home. The first three stories are highly romanticized tales of young women's escapes from slavery and their finding of true happiness in Northern climes. In each of these stories the narrator-hero appears to be Brown's father, who contrives, though never by violence, to secure freedom and eventually idyllic happiness for each young woman. Another selection in Tales My Father Told is a history of black spirituals that compares them to Hebrew songs of captivity. The final story in the collection is a didactic, melodramatic morality tale about the effects of whisky on a young man.

Homespun Heroines, and Other Women of Distinction (1926) is a compilation of biographical sketches written by Brown and several other women. In the greeting to her readers, Brown says she hopes to preserve for future reference the life and character of "the history-making women of our race." The 55 sketches are brief; they tend to be subjective, though not completely lacking a factual basis, and almost all earnestly exhort the reader to emulate these women.

Brown's life had two centers of focus—her religion and Wilberforce University. Her dedication to both led her to support the Women's Christian Temperance Union and to advocate justice and equality for her race, especially for the women. She made use of her oratorical skills to further these ends and the political involvement of her later years can likewise be traced to both these interests.

Other Works:

Bits and Odds: A Choice Selection of Recitations (1880). Our Women: Past, Present and Future (1925). Pen Pictures of Pioneers of Wilberforce (1937). "As the Mantle Falls" (unpublished; at the Hallie Quinn Brown Memorial Library, Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio).


Daniels, S. I., Women Builders (1970). Davis, E., Lifting As They Climb (1933). Dunlop, M. E., "A Biographical Sketch of Hallie Quinn Brown," in the Wilberforce University Alumni Journal (1 June 1963). McFarlin, A. S., "Hallie Quinn Brown—Black Woman Elocutionist: 1845 (?)-1949" (dissertation, 1975).

Reference Works:

NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). Noted Negro Women (1893).


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Brown, Hallie Quinn

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