Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Where Detroit's History Endures
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Cora Brown

Cora BrownCora Brown
(1914 – 1972)

Cora Mae Brown was born in 1914 in Bessemer, Alabama.  Her family migrated to Detroit, Michigan when she was eight years old.  There Brown was mentored by a lively community of female activists who encouraged her to attend Fisk University after graduation from Cass Technical High School.  At Fisk Brown studied with the renowned sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier, and graduated with a degree in sociology.

Upon her return to Detroit, Brown obtained one of the few white-collar jobs available to black women in Detroit’s public sector, as a social worker in the Women’s Division of the Police Department.  Working closely with the community during the Great Depression and into the war years, Brown aided and encouraged young African American women during a tumultuous time.

In the early 1940s Brown attended Wayne State University Law School.  Upon her graduation in 1948 Brown began to explore the possibility of running for public office.  In 1952, she became the first African American women to serve in the Michigan State Senate where she supported legislation for fair housing and equal employment.  Brown served two terms in the Senate as a pioneer in civil rights.  She then attempted to reach the halls of Congress by running for the House of Representatives in 1956.  After losing her race, Brown was appointed as the special associate general counsel of the U.S. Post Office in 1957.  Thereafter, she served as executive director of the President's Committee on Government Contracts, which was formed to ensure that private firms with government contracts comply with fair employment practices.  Politics being what they are, she left this post to enter private practice in California when a Democratic president entered the White House after Eisenhower.  She eventually returned to Detroit where she became a referee for the Michigan Employment Security Commission.

Brown was inducted posthumously into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

Brown is buried in Section A2, Lot 27.