Hallie Brown: This Woman Visited Plantations To Teach Black Children Denied Education During Slavery

Photo credit: Library of Congress


Each person of African origin with connections to slavery has a unique story to tell. Former slaves Thomas Arthur Brown and Frances Jane Scroggins were the parents of educationist Hallie Quinn Brown. According to Hallie Q. Brown, her mother was set free by one of her grandfathers, a white Revolutionary War officer and plantation owner; her father was the offspring of a Scottish woman and a Black overseer of a plantation.

Brown’s parents were well-educated and enthusiastic in learning. While Thomas, her father, was regarded as a “walking encyclopedia,” Wilberforce University, a historically black college, was a major focus of her mother’s involvement. She served as an unofficial counselor and advisor to a large number of university students.

Additionally important figures in the Underground Railroad Network were Brown’s parents. All of these factors significantly influenced the lady Brown would become in the future, helping to promote both the emancipation of and literacy among children of enslaved Africans. Her time of birth is one of these additional factors. Brown, who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1845, attended Wilberforce University for her postsecondary education and earned a Bachelor of Science there in 1873.

Soon after graduating from school, she started out on a mission to train young people who were being denied an education because they were slaves. At the Senora Plantation in Mississippi, she tested her vision. She broadened the scope of her literacy effort to include underprivileged children on the other plantations, teaching them to read and write after recording success with her initial project.

She continued doing this for a while before finding work at Allen University in Columbia and later Columbia City Schools. She was given the title of Dean at Allen University between 1885 and 1887. In addition, Brown launched a project that catered to elder Black Americans who, as a result of slavery and structural issues, never had the chance to pursue an education. In addition to teaching in Dayton’s public schools for four years, she created a night school for disadvantaged adults there from 1887 to 1891, mixing it with lessons for migrant workers.

Although being actively involved in educational endeavors, Brown spent 1892–1893 working at the Tuskegee Institutes in Alabama. She joined Booker T. Washington’s team at the Institutes and was given the position of Women’s Dean.

Also, she was a major force behind the establishment of the Colored Women’s League in Washington, D.C., in 1893, as well as the National Organization of Colored Women.

In addition, educator Brown engaged in public speaking engagements to advance women’s rights and fight racial and social injustice. She appeared at the 1895 World’s Women Christian Temperance Union Convention in London and was given an audience with Queen Victoria during one of her travels to discuss the civil rights cause.

Brown went dead from coronary thrombosis on September 16, 1949, in Wilberforce, Ohio. In honor of her contributions to the advancement of African-American society, Hallie Q. Brown’s legacy has given rise to two memorials: the Hallie Q. Brown Memorial Library and the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center.


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