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Harriet Elizabeth Brown


photo of Harriet Brown

Harriet Elizabeth Brown, a Calvert County school teacher, had a profound effect upon the teaching profession. She was the catalyst in education in Maryland for equal pay, regardless of race.

During her employment as a teacher, she discovered that teachers of color were receiving a much lower salary than white teachers. As a general rule, teachers of color worked in separate schools at salaries far below those of white teachers working in the same community, with the same training and qualifications, and doing the same work. Brown, a teacher with eight years of experience and a first grade certificate, received an annual salary of $600.00, while her white counterparts with the same qualifications and experience received an annual salary of $1100.00.

Disturbed by the inequity and the injustice of the Calvert County teachers pay scale, Brown courageously set out to right the wrong. Enlisting the services of the then N.A.A.C.P. attorney, Thurgood Marshall, Ms. Brown brought a suit against the county contending the Statute setting up separate salary scales for public school teachers based on their race violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Her case was settled December 27, 1937, with the Calvert County Board of Education agreeing to equalize salaries. This landmark case opened the door a couple years later for the Maryland Teachers Pay Equalization Law, the first equalization law in the State.

Brown's case became the turning point of the salary equalization fight in Maryland and would eventually have an effect throughout the country.

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