Harold Brown, Civil Rights Leader and SDSU Administrator
Born in 1934, Harold Brown grew up in York, Pennsylvania, a small working-class town. In 1953, he attended San Diego State College on a basketball scholarship. His studies were interrupted by two years of military service, but eventually he returned to SDSC where he majored in physical education and speech.
Upon graduating in 1961, Brown began a six-year teaching career. During this time, he also became extremely active in the San Diego Civil Rights Movement. He formed the Afro-American Association, an organization dedicated to informing and educating African-Americans about their plight in the United States, and was also a member of the El Cajon Valley Open Housing Committee, which sought to integrate neighborhoods in El Cajon and La Mesa. In addition, Brown helped to found and chair the local chapter of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). This organization fought job and housing discrimination, and organized marches, demonstrations and sit-ins across San Diego in an effort to demand equal rights and opportunities.
Later, Brown became the Deputy Director for the US Peace Corps in Lesotho. After returning from Africa, Brown began working in central administration at San Diego State in 1971, making him the first African-American administrator at SDSU. During his 33-year tenure, Brown helped to hire the faculty and develop the curriculum for the Africana Studies Department. In 1995, he created the certificate program in Community Economic Development, and eventually established the Center for Community Economic Development. Harold Brown has been the recipient of numerous awards both for his service to the university and to the community.
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Harold Brown's oral history documents his early life and education, his leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement in San Diego, and his professional activities. This history is divided into two parts. In Part 1, Brown discusses his love of baseball and basketball, his college years at San Diego State, and his involvement in several civil rights organizations, including the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) and the Afro-American Association. Of particular interest are Brown's remembrances of his arrests at sit-ins and demonstrations, and his reflections on the success of CORE's campaign for equal job opportunity. In Part 2, Brown focuses on his career at San Diego State University and his personal and professional accomplishments. He details his role in the establishment of the Africana Studies Department and his time as Vice Chairman for the School Integration Task Force during the 1970s. He also mentions his influences and hopes for the future.
Interview digitally recorded on March 30, 2010 by Gloria Rhodes.