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Ella Barksdale Brown Papers

Call Number: JWJ MSS 41

Scope and Contents

The Ella Barksdale Brown Papers document her life as an educator, anti-lynching activist, suffragist and journalist, and span the dates 1885 to 1952, although the bulk is from 1906 to 1926. The papers consist of correspondence, printed material and financial papers documenting Brown's involvement with war relief efforts, teaching, women's rights, civil rights and other social issues mostly pertaining to African Americans during the early twentieth century.

The correspondence documents Ella Barksdale Brown's personal and professional relationships including those with figures and organizations prominent in the civil rights movement. The printed materials document her interest in education and particularly her life as an educator. Her personal writings include two speeches/essays entitled "The Negro's Burden" and "The Negro's Contribution" (both undated) plus other short writings that document her work as a civil rights activist, educator and anti-lynching activist. A group of financial papers document Brown's and her family's ownership of property in New Jersey and Georgia.


  • 1885 - 1952
  • Majority of material found within 1906 - 1926


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Ella Barksdale Brown Papers are 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 Company on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2007.


Organized into three series: I. Correspondence. II. Printed Material. III. Personal Papers.


2.98 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Ella Barksdale Brown Papers consist of correspondence, writings, financial papers, newspapers and other materials that document her work as an educator, anti-lynching activist, suffragist, and journalist. The bulk of the papers provide evidence of Brown's activism and involvement with numerous schools, youth groups, war relief, civil rights and community organizations.

Ella Barksdale Brown (1871-1966)

Ella Barksdale Brown, educator, anti-lynching activist, suffragist, and journalist, was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, and was a member of the first graduating class of Spelman Seminary (later Spelman College) in 1887. According to her obituary, she was born to former slaves, Jefferson Barksdale and Julia Lamar Barksdale on June 22, 1871. Ella Barksdale married John M. Brown in Georgia in 1898, and they moved to Jersey City, New Jersey in 1901 where John worked for the Pullman Company. The couple had four children: Marcia, Jefferson Barksdale, Mildred, and Miriam. Among Brown's accomplishments as an educator and activist, she is credited with introducing the study of African American history to Jersey City public schools. She is also credited with persuading the New Jersey Federation, in 1949, to designate March fifth as Crispus Attucks Day in New Jersey.

Brown was also a journalist who wrote for well known African American newspapers of the early twentieth century including The Chicago Defender and The New York Amsterdam News. A devoted educator, she was sought after by area Jersey City high schools and community organizations to deliver lectures on African American history. Her community and national activism gained her personal acquaintance with some of the leading civil rights proponents and African American leaders of the early twentieth century including W. E. B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Paul Robeson and James Weldon Johnson. Some of the community organizations she was most involved with were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Circle for Negro War Relief, the New Jersey Civil Rights Bureau and the National Association of Colored Women.

Additional biographical information obtained from Spelman College is filed in Box 1.

Processing Information

Two small folders of disintegrated newspaper clippings were discarded during processing.

This collection was processed as part of Beinecke Library's Summer Internship Program in 2008.

Guide to the Ella Barksdale Brown Papers
by Bergis Jules
July 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.