With recent announcements of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum naming a new director followed by news the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture, Lonnie G. Bunch III, will become the Smithsonian Institution’s 14th Secretary we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Professor Solomon G. Brown, who served the Smithsonian Institution for more than a half-century as its first African American employee.
While an activist resident of the Hillsdale community on Elvans Road, Prof. Brown was friends with Dr. Frederick Douglass of Jefferson Street in the nearby Anacostia community. Brown and Douglass attended (and spoke) at the same literary events, local church groundbreakings and school graduations. Prof. Brown was a member of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. Upon his passing in 1906, Rev. Francis Grimke, who performed the ceremonies for the second marriage of Dr. Douglass, officiated Brown’s funeral.
According to the Smithsonian, Brown served from 1852 to the early 1900s and during his time at the Smithsonian, he held many titles and performed many duties in service to the Institution. Brown served under the first three Smithsonian Secretaries, Joseph Henry, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and Samuel P. Langley.
As local inhabitants well know the Salvation Army building at Morris Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE is named after Professor Brown.