Solomon G. Brown (c.1829-1906)

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Solomon G. Brown (c. 1829-1906) was a poet, scientific technician, and lecturer despite the fact that he never received a formal education. When he was only 15, he worked with Samuel F.B. Morse to develop the first electric telegraph, and was later the first African American person hired by the Smithsonian Institution. He worked as a general laborer, then museum assistant, then registrar over transportation, registry, and storage of animal specimens and materials the Smithsonian received. Brown also prepared practically all of the maps and drawings used in Smithsonian lectures for almost ten years, and gave lectures about what he was learning at the Smithsonian.

Besides his interest in natural science, he also wrote poetry and participated in various readings in Washington DC. His poems were published in the Washington Bee, one of the leading African American newspapers of his time. He was also active in the community, with a special focus on helping students of color. Brown was a trustee of Wilberforce University in Ohio and of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. Additionally, Brown founded the Pioneer Sabbath School and served as superintendent of the North Washington Mission Sunday School, then became president of the National Union League. He went on to serve for three years in the DC legislature. Brown’s poetry centered on the social issues of his time as well as religion. As a man born to ex-slaves, free in a culture where slavery was still legal, his perspective on the war was quite interesting, and was apparent in his poetry.

http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/brown-solomon-g-1829-1906 AND http://siarchives.si.edu/history/exhibits/stories/solomon-brown-first-african-american-employee-smithsonian-institution

written by Word Works intern Monica Root, September 2013


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