Sterling Nelson Brown

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

As February is Black History Month, it is important to note the accomplishments that Roane County African Americans have made. One of those is Sterling Brown. Sterling Nelson Brown went from being a slave in Roane County, to become a professor of Bible Introduction and Bible History at Howard University Divinity School in Washington, D.C. for thirty-one years. His story is told in his autobiography “My Own Life Story” that was published in 1924. Sterling was born on November 21, 1858, as a slave in Roane County to Hardy and Clarisa Brown. He was sent to the first free school ever taught in Roane County which was taught by Miss Angeline Summers. When his father became ill, in order to help support his family he was forced to go to work at the age of 13 years to help provide for his family “which at that time often went to bed hungry and sad.” As the Cincinnati Southern Railroad was beginning to be built, he went to work on the railroad and later worked at a brickyard earning fifty cents a day. With the money he earned, he was able to buy a small farm for his parents. He entered Fisk University in Nashville, in November 1875. He graduated from Fisk University in 1885 and from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1888. He became a pastor in Washington, D.C. for 25 years. In November 1892, he began teaching the English Bible in the School of Religion at Howard University and remained for thirty-one years. He died in 1929. His son, Sterling Allen Brown was also an educator at Howard University.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, March 2014.