When Sylvia Brown’s father handed much of his inheritance to Brown University in 1995, the gesture maintained a 300-year family philanthropic tradition. Less than a decade later, at the inaugural symposium of the University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, one speaker declared “there were no good Browns.” Grappling With Legacy was born of the juxtaposition between these starkly opposed perspectives. Sylvia has delved into one of the country’s largest family archives to understand what fuels a multi-generational compulsion to giving: Self-interest? A feeling of guilt? A sense of genuine altruism? The Brown family mirrors America’s evolving urge to do good — from colonial era charity, to reformist initiatives in the Early Republic, to the philanthropy of the Gilded Age, to social impact investing today.
This Reading List will provide resources on the Brown Family, focusing around two brothers, John and Moses Brown, who as time progressed developed differing thoughts on the slave trade. These publications, which include Ms. Brown's new book, Grappling with Legacy, can augment readers knowledge of the Brown family, and their important history here in Rhode Island.
“This is a fascinating and intellectually honest work about a remarkable family that has played a major role in the history of Providence and Rhode Island. Sylvia Brown has made a tremendous contribution in writing this wonderful book. It is clearly a labor of love, and we should all be grateful to her for it.”
By, Mack Thompson
Moses Brown carried on a wide range of business activities, seeking profit as capital for humanitarian purposes. He became a reluctant participant and eventually a leader in many reform movements--crusades against slavery and war; efforts to provide education for the underprivileged, orphans, and Afro-Americans; and programs of urban redevelopment and public health.
By, Robert Morton Hazelton
This text from the 1950s focuses mostly on the life of Moses Brown the Quaker, and his growing sentiments of abolitionism. After the death of his first wife in 1773, Brown withdrew from his business commitments and remained inactive until the end of the decade. He became a Quaker, a faith shared by his second and third wives, Mary Olney and Phoebe Lockwood. During this period he took part in the antislavery movement in Rhode Island. He freed his own slaves, aided other slaves to escape, and helped freedmen of Arican descent maintain themselves.
By James B Hedges
The Brown family stands out in American business history for its continuity and for the variety of enterprises in which it has participated. This book, the first of three to be devoted to the family, carries the story from the mid-18th century through the end of the Revolution. It includes fresh and fascinating material on the West Indies, the rum and molasses trade, illegal wartime trade, and the slave trade; it illuminates almost every form of economic activity in which the northern part of America was engaged during the Revolution.
By, Wendy Ann Cooper
A University of Delaware published book on the Furniture of John Brown. A key insight into the many decorative items Brown accumulated in his lifetime.
By, Henry A.L. Brown
This gripping book is largely based on letters heretofore unavailable and challenges irrefutably two classic histories of the Adirondacks. The authors tell their story in intimate, human, and moving terms but nothing is omitted -- not even family scandals long suppressed. This book is essential reading for those who love the Adirondacks or are interested in Rhode Island history.
By, Steven Park
Considered one of the first acts of rebellion to British authority over the American colonies, a fresh account placing the incident into historical context
Between the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773—a period historians refer to as “the lull”—a group of prominent Rhode Islanders rowed out to His Majesty’s schooner Gaspee,which had run aground six miles south of Providence while on an anti-smuggling patrol. After threatening and shooting its commanding officer, the raiders looted the vessel and burned it to the waterline. Despite colony-wide sympathy for the June 1772 raid, neither the government in Providence nor authorities in London could let this pass without a response. As a result, a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Rhode Island governor Joseph Wanton zealously investigated the incident. In The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee: An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution, historian Steven Park reveals that what started out as a customs battle over the seizure of a prominent citizen’s rum was soon transformed into the spark that re-ignited Patriot fervor. The significance of the raid was underscored by a fiery Thanksgiving Day sermon given by a little-known Baptist minister in Boston. His inflammatory message was reprinted in several colonies and was one of the most successful pamphlets of the pre-Independence period. The commission turned out to be essentially a sham and made the administration in London look weak and ineffective. In the wake of the Gaspee affair, Committees of Correspondence soon formed in all but one of the original thirteen colonies, and later East India Company tea would be defiantly dumped into Boston Harbor.
By, Hope S. Rider
This book is the account of a remarkable vessel, sloop Providence, whose history is rooted in pre-Revolutionary events and tied to some of the prime movers of the rebellion as well as to naval captains whose names are legendary.
Founded in 1636, essentially as a refuge for outcasts from Massachusetts, the colony of Rhode Island was unusually open-minded, leading Massachusetts Puritan Cotton Mather to refer to it as “the latrina [or sewer] of New England.” The sixth of the Ivy League universities to be founded, in 1764, Brown accepted students early on regardless of religious affiliation, and in 1969 adopted a student-proposed “New Curriculum,” allowing students to structure their education with relative freedom.
Over the last two and a half centuries, the university and its graduates have played a notable role in numerous defining moments in the American story, from the legacy of slavery (one of the founding Brown brothers was a leading abolitionist, the other an “ardent defender and slave trader”), to the Industrial Revolution and education reform. Although there are plenty of prominent names―among them Horace Mann, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Janet Yellen, and Edwidge Danticat―woven throughout, Widmer’s is a more ambitious account that weaves its threads into a variegated history of how a university can both mirror and spur the wider culture around it. 90 illustrations in color and black-and-white