Profile: Clemson Brown — Africana History In Motion


    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

    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.

 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

    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.

 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.

 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.”





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