Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Minnie G. Brown, 1879-1936

By Reneé Vanish-McLaurin, Undergrad Student, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Penn.

Minnie G. Brown was a notable female entertainer of the 1900s. Born in March 1879 to John and Ella Brown, she was raised in Spokane, Washington. Her parents supported her singing endeavors and her career in entertainment. After graduating from Spokane High School, she studied under Ethel Child Waltron. Brown toured the United States and Canada before making a permanent residence in New York City and taking up teaching at the Musical School Settlement for children of color in New York.

In April 1913, Minnie Brown sang as a soloist and gave remarks at Harriet Tubman's memorial service at St. James Presbyterian Church. She was also an involved member of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs. In July 1914, she attended a club meeting focused on the present day problems of child welfare and equal treatment in hospitals.

Minnie Brown was the leading soprano soloist at St. Mark's M.E. Church in New York, and she was dubbed the “human mockingbird” by her peers for her remarkable range and control. At St. Mark's, she met Daisy Tapley, who also sang, and the two were known companions, listed as living together in the 1920 census. In 1918, Brown and Tapley organized recitals to highlight the talent of black artists for mixed race audiences, and the two were involved with the National Association of Negro Musicians in their city. Daisy Tapley died of cancer in 1925; Brown marked the anniversary of Tapley's death with a dedication to her in the New York Age. After the death of Tapley, Brown continued to play a major part in Harlem's music scene.

A detailed account from the New York Age noted a testimonial honoring Brown by leading men and women of Harlem. Held at the Mother A.M.E. Zion Church in March 1935, it was a “spontaneous expression of appreciation and love”. In the newspaper, she was given credit for being an outstanding artist of her race and raising the standards of classical art. This account also made it known publicly that Brown was convalescing at Lincoln Hospital due to a sudden illness.

In December 1936, a card of thanks was published in the New York Age: “We wish to thank the many friends of Miss Minnie Brown for their kindness during her illness and expressions of sympathy at her passing.” Minnie Brown was approximately 57 years old at the time of her death.


CAPTION: Minnie Brown, New York, ca. 1912.
CREDIT: “Young Woman of Rare Talent.” The Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), June 22, 1912,


Brown, Minnie. In Memoriam. New York Age (New York, NY), February 4, 1928,

Cumbo, Marion and Jessie Zachary Ross. “Card of Thanks,” New York Age (New York, NY), December 5, 1936,

“Home Problem Discussed,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY), July 3, 1914,

“Minnie Brown, Music Teacher, Singer, To Be Honored Mar. 21,” New York Age (New York, NY), Mar. 2, 1935,

“Mrs. Daisy Tapley, Singer and Musician Buried at Sag Harbor,” New York Age (New York, NY), February 14, 1925,

Snyder, Jean E. “Music Mentor and Colleague,” In Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance, 163-83. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016.

“Tubman Memorial Services,” New York Age (New York, NY), April 17, 1913,

United States Census 1900, s.v. “Minnie Brown, Spokane, WA.” HeritageQuest.

United States Census 1920, 1930, s.v. “Minnie G. Brown, New York, NY.” HeritageQuest.

“Young Woman of Rare Talent.” Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), June 22, 1912,

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