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Edgar G. Brown papers

 Collection
Identifier: 270

Scope and Contents

The papers of firebrand politician, lobbyist, and member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet" Edgar G. Brown consist of correspondence, newspaper articles and obituaries, biographical materials, and miscellaneous collected items.

Correspondence of note includes a letter from Irvin McDuffie, a valet and domestic worker for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from October 1939, written shortly after McDuffie left the White House after suffering a nervous breakdown. In this letter, McDuffie describes his mental state, as well as plans for the future. Correspondence also includes a 1936 telegram to Edgar Brown from Richard R. Wright Jr., then president of Wilberforce University, asking Brown to arrange an appointment with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Items of interest also include a 1949 petition issued by the National Negro Council calling for a special session of Congress in August to "enact the president's civil rights program," referring here to President Truman. Based on a precedent with the removal of Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo in 1947, this petition calls for the removal by a two-thirds vote in Congress for "Dixiecrat" Senators Richard Russell Jr. (Georgia), Burnet Maybank (South Carolina), James O. Eastland (Mississippi), Russell B. Long (Louisiana), and John J. Sparkman (Alabama). This petition also called for anti-lynching and anti-poll tax provisions, as well as non-discrimination acts in housing, labor, education, social security expansion, and the civil and armed services.

Other materials of note include a report by Brown from the 1945 San Francisco Conference of the United Nations, where the United Nations Charter was drawn and ratified. In this report, titled "The Washington Scene," Brown describes a tribute to the recently-deceased President Roosevelt and takes note of other delegations in contrast to that of the United States: "Even in the Arabian delegation there were several official delegates who appeared to be pure blooded Africans from the hottest climate of that continent. The same pattern of many colors and complexion was equally true of South America. Only the United States official delegation was lilywhite" [sic].

Dates

  • Created: 1936-1981
  • Other: Date acquired: 04/23/1993

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

Edgar G. Brown was a lobbyist and public relations councellor. He also worked as a publisher and editor of the Stanard News, in Missouri. He founded and directed the National Negro Council from 1934 to his death. As part of Roosevelt's "Negro Cabinet." he worked on several labor issues of discriminations. In addition to his politcal career, Brown was a four time singles champion of the American Tennis Association. and one of the founding fathers of the NAtional LAwn Tennis Association. He authored "Negro Athletes and the Modern Game of Tennis" He contributed to many publications in Chicago and Philadelphia. He was registered as an independent republican.  He died on April 9th, 1954 of a heart attack.

Note written by Andrew Salinas

Biographical Note

Edgar George Brown, lobbyist, public relations counselor, and founder of the National Negro Council, twice ran for Congress in Illinois as a Republican. As president of the United Government Employees Union, Edgar G. Brown served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famed "Black Cabinet."

Born in Sandoval, Illinois, in 1898, Brown was the eldest son in a family of eight children, and his father, George Washington Brown, was a domestic worker for a prominent family. Brown attended Northwestern University, which was interrupted by his service in the Army during World War I. After his service, he returned to Northwestern and graduated in economics and business. Upon graduation, he worked as an advertising manager of the Madame C. J. Walker Co. in Indianapolis, as an editor of the Standard News of St. Louis, and as an administrative assistant and editor of the Federal Security Agency in Washington.

Edgar Brown married Paris Toomer in 1926, and they had two sons, Edward G. Brown and Frederick L. Brown. Toomer was a founding member of the Wake Robin Golf Club for Colored Women in 1937, and she was selected to the United Golfers Association National Afro-American Hall of Fame in 1963, after serving as that group's long-time tournament director.

Edgar Brown transitioned from his journalistic career into employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with some assistance from his brother-in-law, Irvin H. McDuffie, who was President Roosevelt's personal valet. With the backing of President Roosevelt, Brown gained an administrative position in the CCC, where he served in the publicity section. Although hired primarily to report on activities of African Americans in CCC work camps, Brown also utilized his position to agitate for improved status of African American CCC workers, such as increasing their numbers as camp commanders and medical officers. Brown's work with the CCC was likely to have culminated in the publication of a booklet, The C.C.C. and Negro Youth, but this was probably never published. Brown did publish a few brochures and press releases from the CCC, including "The Civilian Conservation Corps and Colored Youth."

Brown quickly drew the ire of CCC director Robert Fechner, who complained to President Roosevelt that Brown "seems to be obsessed with the feeling that he should constitute himself the personal representative of every Negro in our C.C.C. organization." Brown, as reported by Fechner to President Roosevelt, used his position with the CCC to call upon administrators at the Departments of War, Interior, and Agriculture to criticize the mistreatment or underemployment of African Americans in these federal agencies. Upon the cessation of the CCC in 1942, President Roosevelt again intervened with directors of the National Housing Agency and the Office of Price Administration to secure federal employment for Brown. Despite the President's recommendation, Brown's services were unwanted by both agencies.

While working as a federal employee, Brown was president of the United Government Employees, a federal workers' union, from 1934 to 1943. Among his achievements include successfully working toward the elimination of photographs as a requirement in civil service examinations. Brown also worked to secure automatic promotions for federal custodial employees and campaigned successfully for the first language specifically prohibiting racial discrimination in a 1940 civil service law.

After working for the CCC, Brown founded and directed the National Negro Council, a political lobbying organization. As suggested in his Associated Negro Press obituary, this was a controversial organization: "Brown always maintained he was the head of the National Negro Council, an organization for which he collected funds at his many street corner gatherings. However, no one was ever able to obtain information about the group's membership and officers. Nevertheless, he did maintain an office in Washington as official lobbyist of the organization." Despite the controversy, Brown enjoyed one key triumph in his lobbying efforts. Brown mobilized a campaign to have the ignoble Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi removed from office and claimed to have gathered over a million signatures on petitions for this cause.

Brown utilized unconventional means to broadcast his views, often acting as a street-corner orator or driving around in an automobile with a loud speaker, according to his obituary by the Associated Negro Press. He was called a "bearded forerunner of black power" by Chicago broadcaster and journalist Warner Saunders, who remembered Brown as the one Chicagoan most critical of racial discord in that city: "Edgar G. Brown, an exciting, fiery-tongued, street corner orator. I remember his soapbox decrying the white power structure and condemning the docility of blacks... Nearly all of his speeches had the same ending: Two burly, red-faced policemen giving him a free ride to jail."

Edgar Brown was a four-time singles champion of the American Tennis Association, in 1922, 1923, 1928, and 1929. He also co-founded and served as president of the National Lawn Tennis Association.

Brown campaigned for the First Congressional District of Illinois in Chicago, running against the incumbent, William L. Dawson, who Brown referred to as the "Black Apologist." In his campaign to unseat Dawson, Brown had the support of the Chicago Tribune. Brown died in 1954 while taking part in the Republican primaries for Congress after sustaining a heart attack while driving.

Extent

0.40 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Source of Acquisition

Frederick L. Brown

Method of Acquisition

Gift

Appraisal Information

This papers of Edgar G. Brown reflect his career as a federal employee with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a lobbyist and political reformer, and a politician.

Related Materials

The Amistad Research Center houses a small collection of papers of Mary McLeod Bethune, an education reformer who was also a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet." The Center also houses the personal papers of African American Republican politicians George Washington Lee and E. Frederic Morrow.

Processing Information

Collection processed in March 2012.

Title
Edgar G. Brown papers
Author
Andrew Salinas
Date
03/27/2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
eng

Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

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