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Do You Know Hallie Quinn Brown?

Updated: Apr 12

Photo of Hallie Quinn Brown
Hallie Quinn Brown, educator and activist, cape draped on shoulder and wearing gloved / Biddle, Xenia, O. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Robert H. McNeill Family Collection, reproduction number LC-DIG-ppmsca-50302. Creator: Biddle, Fred S., photographer, c. between 1875-1888.


Caption label from exhibit Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote Ratification and BeyondHallie Quinn Brown and Republican Party Politics. Hallie Quinn Brown, a suffragist, educator, and noted elocutionist who had taught school in South Carolina and Mississippi, was living in Ohio when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Like many other African Americans, Brown supported Warren G. Harding and the Republican Party in the 1920 election, but because of the party's weak antilynching stance, the National Association of Colored Women, of which Brown was then vice president, withheld a formal endorsement of him. In 1924, Brown was director of Colored Women's Activities for the Republican national campaign.


The caption label above notes a crucial historical event Brown was at the center of, but it only scratches the surface of Hallie Quinn Brown's lifetime contribution to the world.


February's Black History Month and March's Women's History Month flew by in a heartbeat. Fortunately, there is nothing preventing us from continuing our education regarding the past, and there is plenty of history to explore. A search for "notable black women of history" uncovered an article by Lilly Workneh, storyteller, strategist, and speaker.

Lilly Workneh's article "Rare Photos Show Lesser-Known Black Women Activists Of The 19th Century" appearing on Voices page on January 30, 2024, addresses a recently digitized collection of photos now available on the Library of Congress website. The title of the article says so much about the human experience—there were (and are) people we may never know whose work advanced (and advances) our civilization. Her article opens:

When discussing black women’s history, activists like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks are often quick to come to mind for many.
Yet while their resilience and advocacy is noteworthy, they’re certainly not the only famous black activists we should know.

In her article, Workneh lists 10 individuals with brief descriptive paragraphs and links to explore more. Hallie Quinn Brown's paragraph included her work as an educator and activist with the added information, "She is the founder of the Colored Woman's League of Washington, D.C., which later became the National Association of Colored Women in 1894."

Curious to learn more, a simple search of Brown's name led to the Hallie W. Brown Community Center's website. The link takes you to the "Our Legacy" page on their site with a comprehensive biography of Brown's amazing life—an awe inspiring read. After reading about her education and accomplishments in the world, there is a "Works" section listing her bibliography. Somehow this very busy professional also found time to write extensively. At the very end of the biography is an unassuming link to an online version of Brown's book Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction. The link will take you directly to the content of the book.

Hallie Quinn Brown's Introduction from Homespun Heroines

"To My Readers--Greeting:

        "This book is presented as an evidence of appreciation and as a token of regard to the history-making women of our race.

        "One chief object of these introductory sentences is to secure for this book the interest of our youth, that they may have instructive light on the struggles endured and the obstacles overcome by our pioneer women.

        "It has been prepared with the hope that they will read it and derive fresh strength and courage from its records to stimulate and cause them to cleave more tenaciously to the truth and to battle more heroically for the right.

        "The characters and facts herein set forth are veritable history.

        "In presenting this volume to the public, it is proper to remark that it has been prepared from a settled conviction that something of the kind is needed.

        "It is our anxious desire to preserve for future reference an account of these women, their life and character and what they accomplished under the most trying and adverse circumstances,--some of whom passed scatheless through fires of tribulation, only to emerge the purer and stronger,--some who received their commission even at the furnace door, the one moment thinking their all was lost forever, the next in secure consciousness of the Everlasting Arms.

        "We lack a complete record of these self-sacrificing heroines, but such as we have been permitted to gather we present through this medium to the public, hoping that it may find as much pleasure in its perusal as the writer had in its making.


"Homewood Cottage, Wilberforce, Ohio. 1926."

It is not a stretch to think Lilly Workneh and Hallie Quinn Brown would have been fast friends had they been contemporaries.


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