In 1976, Clemson Brown, videographer and archivist began his long journey of documenting world history and the role Africa has played in it. Now he needs your help to digitize his rich archive. To learn more about his rich archive of films — 30,000 hours of recordings of African history and Diaspora — and how you can help him digitize the collection please call (718) 859-4046 or visit www.gofundme.com/tapvideo
In 1976, Clemson Brown, videographer and archivist, began his journey to capture on film and videotape the struggles of African Americans to find themselves and rewrite the pages of history from which they have been omitted or denigrated.
As an ordained minister in the House of the Lord Church, under the leadership of Rev. Herbert Daughtry, Minister Brown was encouraged to record the struggles this historic church was involved in. And record he did.
For the next 35 years Minister Brown video-recorded the driving forces in the African community, domestic and international. The Slave Theater on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York, served as a meeting place to hear commentary on events affecting the African American community by Attorney Alton Maddox and Rev. Al Sharpton; Clemson Brown was there to record.
The travesty of injustice involving the disbarring of Maddox from practicing law is well-documented and serves as a lesson to some of the price that activists have to pay.
“The Narration Notes for the Tapstudio Project,” as Clemson Brown calls his rich archives, covers this period and many more highly controversial events not televised or written about in the so-called “mainstream media.”
Minister Brown’s projects documents in detail the injustice stories of victims such as: the 10-year-old Black child, Clifford Glover, who was shot in the back by a White police officer; a 15-year-old Black youth, Randolph Events, shot in the head point blank by police officer Robert Torsney merely for asking a question; the well-respected Black businessman Arthur Miller, choked to death after a verbal confrontation with a police officer; 76-year-old grandmother Eleanor Bumpers whose left hand was blown off after officers raided her apartment and killed her while trying to evict her; the murder of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst, New York, by a White mob; and, the highly-charged Tawana Brawley case.
Rev. Brown’s Trans Atlantic Productions has also recorded thousands of hours of footage covering lectures on African history, current issues and events such as the murder of Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by New York Police Department officers, and Patrick Dorismond, who was killed execution-style.
With camera and video in hand, Clemson Brown also interviewed almost every Black scholar of note: Dr. Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan, scholar and Egyptologist; Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, African history professor; and many others, to put together the missing pages of the African Diaspora history.
So, who is Clemson Brown? Born in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1939, Clemson Brown grew up in a family-owned 350 acre working farm with numerous cousins, uncles and nieces who worked this farm. The school the Brown children attended was built by family members, and the children were home-schooled by several Clemson aunts.
Marcus Garvey’s “self -reliance” philosophy was in full force in this homestead. Interaction with White people was rare; mainly a few times a year when selling cotton on the open market. His mother had 11 children. After Clemson Brown’s father passed away at the age of 36, his mother sent him, at age 14, to live with his father’s sister. He entered Morris High School in the Bronx and became a New Yorker.
The renowned activist and scholar of African history and politics, Elombe Brath, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, graduated from this school a year before Clemson Brown. Initially he had no scholarly ambitions; after high school he obtained an office job. He was fired the first day on the job and advised to find work using his hands.
That was exactly what he did.
One day while working as a post office mail handler –making good use of his hands– Clemson Brown happened to come across a book by John Oliver Killens entitled “Then We Heard the Thunder”, about Blacks in military service during World War II. After he finished reading the book he developed an insatiable appetite to learn everything he could about Black history.
Now eager to quench his thirst for Black history, Clemson Brown applied for admission to City College through what was then the the newly-established Open Admissions Program. Potential students were required to take an English proficiency test. There were 25 questions on the test.
Clemson Brown answered all 25 questions wrong, but he would not be deterred even after the instructor told him that he didn’t belong there. He argued that he had come to learn, and insisted this was the place for him. The instructor agreed to undertake a rigorous remedial studies schedule with Clemson Brown.
To graduate on time, in his final semester, he took 29 credits and graduated with a B+ average, which put him in the top one-third percentile of his class. He majored in art, with an African-American history minor.
In 1960, Clemson Brown married Lady Viola and this union produced two children, Clemson R. and Herlinda Brown.
An incident that accelerated Clemson Brown’s entry into the civil rights struggle occurred on a visit near his home town in the South in 1957. He was traveling with his cousin, Crawford, to see a young Barber Scotia College student in Concord, North Carolina. The breaks on the car the two were driving in were bad and they couldn’t stop as quickly as needed.
Their car almost side-swiped a truck carrying an older White man and several young White men. When Clemson Brown stepped out of the car, he recalls being verbally attacked and called a “nigger.” Some of the men started wrapping chains around their fists menacingly while others wielded heavy pieces of wood, he recalls.
In the south, people of all races carry guns and Clemson Brown and Crawford were no exception. “Shoot; shoot now and kill these motherfuckers,” Clemson Brown recalls yelling to Crawford. The attackers backed off. Leaving the car behind, Clemson Brown and Crawford fled into the nearby college.
Outside, a White mob soon gathered. A college official told Clemson Brown and Crawford that they could not stay at the school; they were endangering her students, the official claimed.
“At that very moment, the skies opened up and rain started pouring over the hate mongers,” Clemson Brown recalls. “With that, they dispersed and we were able to flee to our car.”
There’s no doubt in Clemson Brown’s mind that without what he considered divine intervention he would have been lynched that day. “After this incident, I became very militant – it engendered a drive to fight racism and to see African people liberated from oppression by Whites,” he says.
The struggle for freedom and dignity became his lifelong mission.
Clemson Brown is worried that the younger generation are not in touch with the rich history that sustained Africans in the Diaspora. “Where will this generation go to see, touch and hear about the struggle of African people to combat and overcome the yoke of racial oppression?” he asks.
Clemson Brown has a room in his home where he stores the actual instruments of torture once used to oppress and subjugate African peoples; the included the actual chains-and-balls once secured around the ankles of enslaved Africans on plantations.
He’s determined to create a museum that will also preserve his rich collection of film and videotapes. “Many supporters have helped me along the way,” Clemson Brown says. “For brevity, I can only name a few of them. Reverend Herbert Daughtry, Attorney Alton Maddox, Reverend Johnny Youngblood, Reverend Al Sharpton, Dr. Leonard and Dr. Rosalind Jeffries.”
As for his rich archives he says, “Today, I need help to secure this work and make it a vital part of our museum complex. This is a powerful, innovative approach to reach a generation of youth, particularly African American youth, affected by past events which occurred before many of them were born.”
The youth will learn from and be empowered by these recordings of historic events.
As Malcolm X said: “We must know where we’ve been to know where we’re going” and “Of all the studies, history is most rewarding.”