From the Calvert Marine Museum (CMM) Virtual Series on Southern Maryland Women
As the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close, we honor a Calvert County educator who played a huge role in setting the precedent for equal pay between black and white teachers in Maryland.
Harriet Elizabeth Brown was born in Baltimore City, Maryland in 1907 and her family later moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended the prestigious Philadelphia Normal School for Girls. This school catered to “academically talented young girls” from middle class families. After completing her studies there, Brown earned a B.A. degree in teaching from Morgan State College, and a M.A. degree from the University of Maryland.
Brown came to Calvert County in 1929 as a 22-year-old teacher and eventually became the principal of Mt. Hope Colored School. The schoolhouse was built by Booker T. Washington through the Julius Rosenwald Fund. It was a three-room school where two grades studied in each room. As principal of Mt. Hope, Brown fought to ensure that her students had the necessary resources to receive the best possible education.
In 1937, Brown sued the Calvert County Board of Education for equal pay between black and white teachers. She had similar educational qualifications and experience as white teachers, but earned $600 per year while white teachers earned $1,100. Thurgood Marshall, a recent Howard University Law School graduate and counsel with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, provided legal representation for Brown. While there was no judicial determination, the county commission intervened and agreed that Brown should receive pay equal to that of white teachers in Calvert County. This case provided the precedent for equalization of pay in Maryland and throughout the South. Maryland Governor Harry Nice endorsed equalization of pay statewide and the General Assembly of Maryland enacted Maryland’s Pay Equalization Law in 1941. Of her suit against Calvert County, Brown is reported to have said, “If I lose my job, at least it’s for something worthwhile.”
Learn more about women who have made significant impacts in Calvert County, Southern Maryland, and the state. Visit https://bit.ly/CMMVirtualExhibits to download a digital version of CMM’s newest exhibit, “HERstory: Celebrating Southern Maryland Women.” ♀️
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