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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day [Alabamian Letitia C.W. Brown]

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      From: biod-request@... [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 1:50 AM
      To: ANB bioday mailing list
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day

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      American National Biography Online

      Brown, Letitia Christine Woods (24 Oct. 1915-3 Aug. 1976), historian,
      was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, the daughter of Matthew Woods
      and Evadne Adams, professors. Her maternal grandfather, Lewis
      Adams, was born a slave and after the Civil War was instrumental
      in establishing the Tuskegee Normal School in 1881. Letitia's
      parents both taught at Tuskegee Institute, continuing the family's
      commitment to education. Letitia attended Tuskegee Institute
      High School and graduated with a B.S. from Tuskegee Institute
      in 1935. In 1937 she completed her M.A. at Ohio State University.
      While working on her advanced degree at Radcliffe College, she
      married Theodore E. Brown, a labor economist who later worked
      for the Agency for International Development in the U.S. Department
      of State. After raising two children and becoming involved in
      community projects in Mount Vernon, New York, she attended Harvard
      University, which awarded her a Ph.D. in 1966.

      As a historian, Letitia Woods Brown sought to educate people,
      in a variety of forums, about the African-American experience
      and race relations. Her career as a teacher began in 1935 when
      she taught in the segregated Macon County school system in Alabama.
      She then returned to Tuskegee, where she taught from 1937 to
      1940. From 1940 to 1945 she was an instructor at another black
      college, LeMoyne College in Memphis, and from 1961 to 1970 she
      taught at Howard University, where she served on several committees,
      including the committee to establish the Department of Afro-American
      Studies. In 1968 she became a Fulbright professor in Australia
      at Monash University and Australia National University. After
      brief teaching stints at Georgetown University and Goucher College,
      in 1971 she became the only full-time black faculty member in
      the College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University.

      Throughout her career, she taught courses in U.S. history and
      African-American history. At George Washington University, she
      promoted interracial educational experiences by encouraging graduate
      students from George Washington and Howard Universities to take
      courses at both institutions. While at George Washington, Brown
      also helped develop a course on the history of the District of
      Columbia. Emphasizing local rather than federal history, the
      course was a model for other interdisciplinary classes within the

      Brown also taught outside the traditional classroom setting.
      In 1961 she instructed the first group of Peace Corps volunteers,
      eventually assigned to Ghana. For teacher in-service projects
      in Maryland and Virginia, she helped develop educational materials
      on blacks and other minorities. In 1972-1973 she served as the
      only historian on the National Assessment of Educational Progress's
      panel that set objectives for congressionally mandated tests
      for precollegiate students in social studies. Brown also was
      a professor at the Federal Executive Institute (1970-1973), after
      which she conducted training programs for the Federal Executive
      Institute, including the Department of Agriculture.

      Brown's writing reflected her interest in reaching audiences
      beyond academe and her commitment to studying the local history
      of the District of Columbia. With coauthor Elsie M. Lewis, Brown
      wrote Washington from Banneker to Douglass, 1791-1870 and Washington
      in the New Era, 1870-1970, which accompanied a two-part exhibition
      on African Americans at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
      Institution, in Washington, D.C., 1971-1972. Her major work,
      Free Negroes in the District of Columbia, 1790-1846, was published
      in 1972. Historian Benjamin Quarles said of the work: "In language
      as concise and conclusive as the court records she has searched,
      Professor Brown traces the ways--many of them novel--in which
      blacks in the District moved from slavery to freedom." Brown's
      other writing included an essay on residential patterns of African
      Americans in the District of Columbia and an article entitled
      "Why and How the Negro in History," published in the fall 1969
      issue of the Journal of Negro Education.

      Brown also promoted awareness of African-American history and
      racial issues through her work in the local community, on public
      history projects, and at international history conferences. As
      vice chair of the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National
      Capital, Brown broadened the committee's interpretation of its
      criteria for designating landmarks by promoting the recognition
      of sites important to the history of African-American residents,
      which had been ignored by previous committees. As consultant
      to the Capitol Historical Society, she advocated the inclusion
      of the contributions of many groups, including the slaves who
      built the structure, in the historical narrative of the Capitol.
      She served on the Advisory Board of the Schlesinger Library on
      the History of Women in America at Radcliffe College and helped
      the library initiate the Black Women Oral History Project, which
      eventually interviewed seventy-two African-American women and
      published the transcripts in ten volumes in 1990. Her work with
      the Bicentennial Committee on International Conferences of Americanists
      led to the African Regional American Studies Conference in Lagos,
      Nigeria, in 1976. She served on the Advisory Committee on Historical
      Research for the Columbia Historical Society, helping it become
      more knowledgeable of local African-American history, and was
      a cofounder of the annual conference on Washington, D.C., Historic
      Studies. Her other professional affiliations included membership
      on the executive board of the National Humanities Institute at
      Yale University; the National Archives Advisory Council; and
      the review board of the American Historical Association, which
      oversaw the restructuring of that organization in the early 1970s.

      Brown died of cancer at her home in Washington, D.C. Throughout
      her life, she used her expertise as a historian both in academe
      and in public arenas to increase awareness of the history of
      African Americans in the United States. She encouraged the
      of U.S. history both locally and nationally to include the historical
      experience of blacks, and she helped redefine the ways in which
      that history was conceptualized. Brown saw herself as "both historian
      and futurist. I suppose I shall continue to grapple with it--with
      a growing awareness that the way we organize and present data
      helps shape the way people think, that how we teach is as important
      as what we teach."


      Some of Brown's papers are in the Special Collections at the
      Melvin Gelman Library, George Washington University, and the
      Radcliffe College Archives, which include an article by Brown,
      "Something for Me, My Family, the Race, and Mankind," Radcliffe
      College Quarterly (Mar. 1974): 17-19. For Roderick French's tribute
      at her memorial service, see "Letitia Woods Brown, 1915-1976,"
      Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
      50 (1980): 522-24. Obituaries are in the New York Times and the
      Washington Post, 5 August 1976.

      Noralee Frankel

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      Noralee Frankel. "Brown, Letitia Christine Woods";
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
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