Dr. H.J. Brown

A "Colored Radical" in Nineteenth Century Baltimore

[picture of H.J. Brown On page sixty-seven of the 1916-17 edition of R.W. Coleman's "The First Colored Professional, Clerical, Skilled, and Business Directory of Baltimore City," an alphabetized list of the city's twenty-nine black physicians was printed. The names included celebrated doctors as well as obscure practitioners. The last name on that list stood out because it was out-of-place; not only was the name out of alphabetical order, but the man that name represented was a man out of his time. The misplaced entry read, "Brown, Dr. H.J., Phrenologist, 426 N. Gilmor." Things were not always so out-of-place for Brown, for he was one of those unique historical figures who bridged the gaps between generations of leadership. 
Henry Jerome Brown (1830 - 1920) learned life's early lessons as a child on the same streets of antebellum Baltimore which reared a young slave boy, Frederick Bailey, later to be known as Frederick Douglass. After the war, Brown and others set about the task of defining exactly what freedom was to mean in Baltimore. Late in life, as the Civil War generation of leadership surrendered the mantle of responsibility to younger activists, H.J. Brown was there, taking less of an up-front role than in his younger days, of course, but nonetheless providing valuable leadership which helped to steer black Baltimoreans through the dark days of the 1890s - 1910s. 


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