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Fredi Brown

Fredi Brown, founder and director of the Family Heritage House Museum in Bradenton, Florida, was born on December 4, 1923, in Bradenton. She grew up in a close-knit neighborhood where everyone listened to Joe Louis fights on the same radio. Brown was active in the church and an excellent student at Lincoln High School, where she graduated in 1939 as valedictorian of her class.

Brown wanted to become a dietician and enrolled in Florida A&M University in East Tallahassee, Florida. She wrote for the school paper and when she graduated with a B.A. in 1944, she decided to pursue a career in journalism. She moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and through the National Urban League found a position writing ads for the Kansas City Call. There, Brown met her husband, Ernest Brown, whom she married in Detroit, Michigan, in 1946. The Detroit Urban League hired Ernest and the couple became immersed into the public life of Detroit. The Browns collected materials relating to black life in Detroit from civil rights victories to the devastating 1967 riots. When they relocated to Bradenton in 1976, Brown, who taught at Manatee Community College, shared these items with her students.

When she retired in 1990, she sought a place to house her collected books and papers. Interest from the college administration and community resulted in a new wing of the library that now serves as the home of the Family Heritage House Museum. Focusing primarily on African American history and culture the museum such figures as Charles Drew and John Henrik Clarke are featured in this 2,085-square foot facility that houses books, tapes, paintings, prints, heirlooms and photographs. The museum opened in 2000 and is the only museum of its kind on a community college campus.

Brown was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 24, 2002.

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Interview Date


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Lincoln High School

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

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Favorite Season



Knight Foundation



Favorite Vacation Destination

San Francisco, California

Favorite Quote

An Ongoing Search For Truth.

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Favorite Food


Short Description

Museum chief executive and cultural heritage collector Fredi Brown (1923 - ) is the founder of Family Heritage House which features tapes, photographs and books from prominent African American figures such as Charles Drew and John Henrik Clarke.


Kansas City Call

Detroit Urban League

Manatee Community College

Family Heritage House Museum

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Fredi Brown's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Fredi Brown lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Fredi Brown describes her maternal family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Fredi Brown talks about how her parents met</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Fredi Brown describes her father's personality, looks, and his work</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Fredi Brown describes her mother's personality and work</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Fredi Brown talks about working at Bradenton General Hospital as a child</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Fredi Brown describes her childhood neighborhood in Bradenton, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Fredi Brown recalls her childhood aspiration to be a dietician</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Fredi Brown talks about attending church as a child</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Fredi Brown recalls her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Fredi Brown describes her elementary school teachers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Fredi Brown remembers being valedictorian and pursuing her interest in journalism</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Fredi Brown describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Fredi Brown recalls segregation in Bradenton, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Fredi Brown recalls speaking up against racial discrimination</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Fredi Brown describes her personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Fredi Brown discusses her decision to major in home economics at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Fredi Brown recalls her professors at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Fredi Brown describes her time at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Fredi Brown talks about the jobs she held immediately after her college graduation</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Fredi Brown talks about moving to Kansas City, Missouri</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Fredi Brown describes her first journalism job at the Kansas City Call in Kansas City, Missouri</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Fredi Brown explains how she met her husband</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Fredi Brown describes Detroit, Michigan in the 1940s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Fredi Brown discusses her job at Bond Bread in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Fredi Brown describes the black community in Detroit during the mid-20th Century</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Fredi Brown describes the advantages of living in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Fredi Brown explains how she became an English teacher in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Fredi Brown recalls the Detroit riots of July 27, 1967</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Fredi Brown remembers April 4, 1968, the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Fredi Brown describes how she was affected by the 1967 riots</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Fredi Brown talks about why she returned to Bradenton, Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Fredi Brown talks about Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Fredi Brown talks about founding the Family Heritage House Museum</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Fredi Brown describes moving the Family Heritage House Museum to Manatee Community College</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Fredi Brown explains her motivation for starting the Family Heritage House Museum</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Fredi Brown reflects on the importance of maintaining black history</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Fredi Brown talks about the educational value of The Heritage House on the Manatee County Community College</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Fredi Brown recalls naming The Family Heritage House</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Fredi Brown talks about managing The Family Heritage Museum</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Fredi Brown discusses the importance of African American historians</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Fredi Brown describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Fredi Brown reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Fredi Brown talks about how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Fredi Brown narrates her photographs</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Fredi Brown narrates her photographs</a>







Fredi Brown recalls the Detroit riots of July 27, 1967
Fredi Brown talks about managing The Family Heritage Museum
Now about this time we touched on earlier, the first--well a few riots but--the Detroit riots--one of the Detroit riots occurred, tell me what's going on, how it gets to this and how it affects you?$$We were--my children and I were at a church picnic that Sunday because we were members of Detroit Unity Church, that's where they grew up in Detroit Unity and we were having a family--a church picnic that Sunday, what was it, July 27th, I think anyway my husband, of course, was on the golf course where he usually was on a Sunday. But that's when we got the word that there was some problem in Detroit and that there had been some burning and rioting and what not and for everybody to get home as fast as they could and of course, we did. Everybody piled into their individual automobiles and left the park to go home and from that point on things just got worst. It was really quite frightening. You didn't leave your home except for very necessary trips and as I said, the tanks were rolling up and down the streets and even a helicopter landed across the street from us in the park. There was smoke in the--it was just all over even though we were on the east side and all of this was happening mostly on the west side but then some of it migrated to the Gratiot area, not too far from where we were. So it was a very sad time and, of course, my husband was in the thick of all of it too and eventually they established what they call the new Detroit that was supposed to help restore the community and he served on that, a new Detroit committee as a representative from the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company because by that time he was no longer with the Urban League. He was working for Michigan Consolidated Gas. I don't know, I don't know, Detroit never really fully recovered from that time. They never did really restore 12th Street to its original state and the places where the unions and the people said that they were going to establish parks and what not and upgrade--none of those things ever happened. They just cleaned up the debris and did a little--.$How do you balance the responsibility as it continues to grow and grow? How do you negotiate that?$$It is rough; it is very, very difficult because we have never had any paid staff in all these twelve years. It's just been my husband and myself and with whatever volunteer help that we could get. Since we have been on the campus, we've had some really great volunteer people not from the campus but from other sources. There are--people--professional people who are in the business who have provided some volunteer service for us. Our main goal now and has been for the last few years is to try to find a source of funding so that we can hire some paid help. That is a must and in as much as we lost half of our staff the end of December when my husband passed because there was just the two of us, it's even more necessary now because I can't even get away to go take care of business. Take my mother to the doctor and all these things that--some things that have to be done. It's becoming very, very difficult.$$Now you've been daughter, you've been mother, you've been journalist, valedictorian, educator, how do you wear the hat of historian?$$I don't (laugh)--I don't consider myself a historian. I've been learning--I've really been learning all the way here with this and there is just so much to know--there is just so much to know about our history that it's just an ongoing process for me. I tell people I'm not a historian, I'm not a curator, I don't know. I'm not any of these--have any of these professional titles that you might need for the kind of operation that I'm involved in but I have a passion for it and it has worked so far for me for these twelve years. So I think that I bring something to it and we can always hire a professional who has these other skills.