Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Dr. Sara W. Brown, 1868-1948

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Sara W. Brown was born in July 1868 in Winchester, VA. She attended M Street High School in Washington, DC, where she was a student of the suffragist, Mary Church Terrell. She studied at Hampton Institute, after which she attended Miner Normal School in DC. Shen then earned an A.B. degree at Cornell University in 1897. While teaching Biology in the District she attended Howard University Medical School, graduating with an M.D. degree in 1904. Not entirely satisfied, she studied further with sociologist Franklin Giddings and anthropologist Franz Boas at Columbia and attended lectures at the Sorbonne in Paris.

In February 1921, Dr. Brown joined a delegation of 60 Black women suffragists, who protested violations of the recently ratified 19th Amendment in Southern states that denied Black women their voting rights. The delegation, headed by the NAACP field secretary, Addie W. Hunton, met with Alice Paul, head of the National Woman's Party (NWP) on the eve of the party's national convention. Their purpose was to press the NWP to pass a resolution calling on Congress to investigate the failures of Southern states to enforce the 19th Amendment for Black women. Paul made no such commitment and the convention as a whole refused to endorse the call.

Dr. Brown worked with a variety of social organizations over the years, including YMCA Student Conferences. She assisted the Freedmen's Hospital Nurse Committee and served as the first alumna trustee of Howard University. She was also active in the NAACP and helped found the College Alumnae Club to serve Black college graduates who were not admitted to the white American Association of University Women (AAUW). She also served as the chair of the Education committee of the Inter-Racial Committee of the DC Branch of the NAACP into the 1940s.

Dr. Sara A. Brown died in September 1948 when she has hit by a car while crossing a street in Washington, DC.

Sources:

Mary Church Terrell, "Dr. Sara W. Brown," unpublished manuscript in the Mary Church Terrell Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Accessible online at https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss42549.mss42549-022_00778_00782/?sp=2.

Federal Manuscript Census, Washington, DC, 1900. Accessible online with Ancestry Library Edition.

List of NAACP Delegation Members to Alice Paul, 12 February 1921, NAACP Papers, Part 04 Voting Rights and Voting Rights Campaign, 1916-1950 (Feb. 8, 1921-April 3, 1921), frames 61-64, Library of Congress.

NAACP Papers—various searches in the Online NAACP Papers in the ProQuest History Vault.

 

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