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*Claude Brown was born on this date in 1937. He was a Black writer and children’s advocate.
From Harlem, Brown's early days frequented breaking the law. His crime run began at the tender age of 8. His father, a dockworker, would frequently beat him and his siblings when they got into trouble, and his mother struggled with the juvenile court to get him into the best state delinquency programs. But nothing seemed to prevent Brown from breaking the law. Despite his unstable, alcoholic father, and the poverty of his youth, his siblings all grew up to lead normal lives. Brown spent years in and out of juvenile detention centers and juvenile homes due to stealing and selling drugs.
His life of crime took a turn when a local drug addict shot him in the abdomen. This incident and the encouragement of a friend helped Brown leave his life of crime behind him. In 1959, he entered Howard University in Washington, and shortly afterward, he began writing. Toni Morrison, one of his teachers, often critiqued Claude's work. Claude wrote about what he knew best about his own life experiences. Browns Manchild in the Promised Land is a best-selling autobiography of his youth in Harlem, New York. In 1976, he published The Children of Ham, a story about struggling young Blacks in Harlem.
Almost 35 years and 4 million copies later, Manchild in the Promised Land has become the second best-selling book MacMillan Books ever published (the first was Gone with the Wind) and has been published in 14 languages. It launched his career as a writer, giving him a platform to publish in Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, and The New York Times Magazine. Brown was a freelance writer and frequent lecturer and started a family. He had two children from two marriages and a grandson. Though living in Newark, New Jersey, he was still involved in Harlem and helping kids out of street life.
He worked to maintain a program that mentors kids from Harlem and helped them go to college. Brown also supported a Newark-based program that diverts kids caught up in the court system into an intensive eight-week residential treatment program that tries to turn young people's lives around. Writer Claude Brown died of a lung condition on February 6, 2002; he was age 64
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York