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Henry Brown was one of the student panel members at a meeting of the American Association of University Women. (left to right shown are: Hillary Alfassa, Mrs. Richard Sommerfield, Mrs. Gene Drecktrah, and Henry Brown.)
Photo by The Paper.
Henry Brown letters home.
Letters courtesy of Henry Brown III.
Henry Brown’s initial experience with white neighbors in Milwaukee was equally rough. On one occasion he was tossed onto an ice-covered snow bank and pummeled in the snow. When his white tormentors were asked by a bystander how long they would continue, they responded: “until he turns white.” Like Sandra and Geoff, Henry was the progeny of a father who had served in World War II and who took his family north to Milwaukee in order to escape the Jim Crow South (in the Brown family’s case, Louisiana) in search of a decent job (at Allis Chalmers) and a better life.
Henry admired civil rights activists such as Lloyd Barbee and Father Groppi, joined the NAACP Youth Council and in 1964 was one of the 8,500 Milwaukee students who honored the MUSIC school boycott and attended a Freedom School. While a student at Rufus King High School, he learned of the opportunity to attend WSU-O and received assurances that he qualified for financial aid and a free meal ticket.
While moving into his dorm, he was greeted with comments such as “go back to the jungle.” His father stood at his side and asked Henry whether he was certain he was prepared to withstand such resistance. Henry was indeed ready, but he found comfort in knowing that Dr. Roger Dennis, chair of the Music Department, was willing to provide him with safety if he needed it. In his two and a half semesters at WSU-O, Henry studied music, joined the Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity, and was elected into the Breese Hall Judicial Board.