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Joe C. Brown papers

Call Number: JWJ MSS 376

Scope and Contents

The papers contain drafts, artwork, correspondence, photographs, and other materials documenting the life of Joe C. Brown. Correspondents include: South African poet and activist Dennis Brutus, Horace R. Cayton, publisher Dudley Randall, musician Phil Cohran, James W. Ivy, editor of The Crisis magazine, Beatrice M. Murphy, Harry Mark Petrakis, Constance Webb, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Operation Breadbasket. There is also one autograph manuscript draft of an outgoing letter to "Dick" (Richard Wright) and one typerscript carbon of an outgoing letter to Thurgood Marshall.


  • 1933 - 1993


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Joe C. Brown papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from William Reese Co. (Swann sale 2598, New York, 2022 March 24, lot 306) on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2022.


Organized into two series: I. Writings, 1942-1982. II Other Papers, 1933-1993.


4.88 Linear Feet (7 boxes + 1 broadside)

Language of Materials


Persistent URL

Joseph Clifton Brown (1908-1993)

Joseph Clifton Brown was an author, educator, civil rights activist, and artist. Born and raised in Mississippi, he attended Jim Hill, Smith Robinson, and Lanier public schools, and later, Jackson College, Alcorn State University (formerly Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College), and Rust College.

Brown worked on the first black newspaper published in Jackson, The Criterion and, during the late 1930s, taught in the public schools of Lafayette County, Mississippi. During this time he also helped organize the first Black Boy Scout program in the area and served as a national news reporter for the Associated Negro Press. In 1948, he and his wife Rubye L. Threlkeld relocated to Chicago, where he worked for the Chicago Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Illinois Department of Labor, from which he retired in 1976, and the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center (formerly DuSable Museum of African American History). In the 1960s and 1970s he remained active in education and civil rights with Operation Breadbasket, Christ United Methodist Church and Grace-Calvary United Methodist Church.

Brown maintained a long friendship with the author Richard Wright, whom he met at Smith Robinson. Wright's letters to Brown were published by the Kent State University Libraries, under the title Letters to Joe C. Brown, in 1968. While working in Oxford, Brown also got to know the author William Faulkner.

Brown's first published works, "A Blackamoor's prayer" and "Holy jive," appeared in Poets of America, 1941 (New York: Avon, 1942). Other published work includes the following: the poem, "Ghetto manchild," put out by Broadside Press in 1966; the poems "But not like yesterday" and "The Dream (ode to Dr. Martin Luther King)," published by Broadside Press in 1968; and the poems "Signs of sleep" and "Rustic love," which appeared in Ebony rhythm: an anthology of contemporary Negro verse, edited by Beatrice Murphy (Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1968).

Biographical information taken from materials in the collection.

Joe C. Brown Papers
Under Revision
Michael L. Forstrom
September 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

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