Sterling Brown (1901-1989) was a native Washingtonian and the son of Rev. Sterling N. Brown, former pastor of the Lincoln Temple Congregational Church. He was raised at 2464 Sixth Street, NW, near Howard University. Brown's poetry, prose, literary criticism, and tenure as a professor in the English Department at Howard University are a testament to his life-long commitment to the city.

Brown's family was part of the city's influential middle class. He graduated from Dunbar High School and Williams College and later received an M.A. in English from Harvard University. Brown taught at several historically black colleges before returning to Washington in 1929 to teach in the English Department at Howard University. He remained at Howard for 40 years, mentoring countless students. A number of his well-known students, including Stokely Carmichael, fondly remembered the discussions they had with him and other classmates in Brown's Kearney Street home. Brown and wife Daisy Turnbull moved here in 1935. The house was designed by Lewis Giles, Sr., best known for his work in the Deanwood neighborhood.

Brown was a central figure of the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His writings include Southern Road (1932), The Negro in American Fiction (1937), and Negro Poetry and Drama (1937). He edited Negro Caravan, a ground-breaking 1941 anthology. Brown credited the "poor black folk of the South" as his best teachers, who inspired his prose and literary theories.

Brown also wrote a general essay on the black community for the WPA guide, Washington: City and Capital, published in 1937. In this essay, Brown chronicles black life from enslavement to the 1930s. He was quite critical of the lack of political activism in the city.

In 1984 he was named the city's first poet laureate.


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