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Tue, 02.23.1937

Claude Brown, Writer born

Claude Brown

*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. In spite of 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 as a result of 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 his own life experiences. Browns Manchild in the Promised Land, is a best selling autobiography on 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 by two marriages, and a grandson. Though living in Newark, New Jersey, he was still involved in Harlem and helping kids out of the street life.

He worked to maintain a program that mentors kids from Harlem, and helps 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
ISBN 0-8160-3289-0

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