Elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown In addition to working directly in the field of elocution, Brown collaborated with other African American women in speaking out and organizing for social justice. She traveled widely, lecturing on issues of civil, human, and linguistic rights. Brown also deeply understood and promoted inclusionary practices for African Americans and women ... Features
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Features  |   February 01, 2008
Elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown
Author Notes
  • Judith Felson Duchan, is an emerita professor from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her current projects are to document the history of theories and practices in speech-language pathology and to promote the social model for use with people with complex communication needs. Contact her at duchan@buffalo.edu.
    Judith Felson Duchan, is an emerita professor from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her current projects are to document the history of theories and practices in speech-language pathology and to promote the social model for use with people with complex communication needs. Contact her at duchan@buffalo.edu.×
  • Yvette D. Hyter, is an associate professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo). She also serves as co-director of the Cultural Connections Curriculum Development Project, an interdisciplinary and transnational team of educators who conduct field research in West Africa. Contact her at yvette.hyter@wmich.edu.
    Yvette D. Hyter, is an associate professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo). She also serves as co-director of the Cultural Connections Curriculum Development Project, an interdisciplinary and transnational team of educators who conduct field research in West Africa. Contact her at yvette.hyter@wmich.edu.×
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Features
Features   |   February 01, 2008
Elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown
The ASHA Leader, February 2008, Vol. 13, 20-21. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.13022008.20
The ASHA Leader, February 2008, Vol. 13, 20-21. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.13022008.20
In addition to working directly in the field of elocution, Brown collaborated with other African American women in speaking out and organizing for social justice. She traveled widely, lecturing on issues of civil, human, and linguistic rights. Brown also deeply understood and promoted inclusionary practices for African Americans and women nearly a century before it became fashionable to do so. Through her work as an elocutionist and a social activist, Brown provides us with an historical model to learn from and emulate.
Lifelong Commitment to Language
Brown was born on March 10, 1850, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of former slaves who were well-educated and actively involved with the Underground Railroad in Pittsburgh. She was educated in Chatham, Ontario, and received a bachelor’s degree in 1873 from Wilberforce University near Dayton, Ohio. Upon graduation, Brown moved to the South and for the next 12 years taught in public and plantation schools in South Carolina and Mississippi. She was committed to improving oral and literacy skills in African American students, including many children and adults who had been denied education as slaves.
Brown wrote two books on elocution. The first, Bits and Odds: A Choice Selection of Recitation, published in 1880, was a collection of short stories and poems, some of which were written in African American English (for an example, see Duchan, 2007). The book also included pieces describing the daily experiences of African Americans.
Brown’s second book, Elocution and Physical Culture, published in 1910, offers an educational program for improving elocution that includes an exercise curriculum for large-body muscles (e.g., trunk exercises) and breathing, as well as practice with gesture, voice building, articulation, pronunciation, inflection, and emotional tones. She drew from the work of Francois Delsarte in her treatment of large-body movement and gesture, and on the work of Oscar Guttmann for what he and she called “gymnastics of the voice” (see Stathopoulos and Duchan, 2006, for more on O. Guttmann’s place in the history of voice training).
Elocution Training
In 1886 Brown enrolled in a summer school in Chautauqua, N.Y., where she studied elocution and public speaking as part of her first formal training as an elocutionist. In the next year she moved back to Dayton where she took a course from a “Professor Robertson” affiliated with the Boston School of Oratory, which later became Emerson College. She describes her training as follows:

While teaching in Dayton, Ohio, I was to realize the good fortune of meeting Professor Robertson of the Boston School of Oratory. He organized and taught classes composed, for the most part, of instructors in the Art of Speech and Oratory. Miss Louise Troy and I, as teachers, enrolled and took the entire course. I became greatly interested in the subject, and as I learned each lesson, I would teach it to my pupils. This marked the beginning of my career in the “Art of Arts” (Brown, unpublished, p. 58).

Brown taught elocution and literacy in the Dayton public schools and founded a night school for former slaves migrating from the South. Her night-school project is depicted in her unpublished autobiography:

About this time, there came to Dayton several hundred migrants from Mississippi—men, women and children, a pitiable group—and settled in the bottoms near the Miami River. Few of the children had been to school. But they were soon placed in the City schools. However, the adults were quite illiterate, none among them being able to read or write his name. They were beyond the school age, and yet something must be done toward their enlightenment…I went before the Board of Education and was granted permission to open a night school. The school brought me in contact with as many benighted persons as those whom I had met on the plantation in South Carolina long ago. For four successive winters I labored tirelessly among these humble, eager migrants driven from their native land by the hard hand of oppression. Yes, experience on two southern plantations had brought me near to the hearts of these pupils of mine in the free state of Ohio (Brown, unpublished, p. 58).

In 1893, Brown took a position as a professor of elocution in the Department of English at Wilberforce College and continued on the lecture circuit. From 1894–1899 Brown traveled throughout the United States and Europe, both alone and as a member of a group of performers called the Wilberforce Concert Company. Her performances consisted of oral readings and lectures on different aspects of African American culture, temperance, and women’s rights as well as on the nature and significance of training in oratory and elocution.
A Model From History
The 19th century African American elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown provides us with inspiring aims and exemplary practices. She lobbied against the cultural prejudices of her times by incorporating her politics of social activism into her work and by serving as a role model, especially for African Americans and other elocutionists. She included in her writings and public performances examples of the African American language and experience. She established literacy programs for children and adults who were former slaves. And she lectured throughout the world promoting the civil and linguistic rights of others.
Brown’s work as a 19th century elocutionist can serve as a model of practice for her progeny—today’s speech-language pathologists. Claiming Hallie Quinn Brown as our ancestor and as a role model can provide us with a new resolve to work more proactively to promote and celebrate cultural diversity and, in so doing, better serve our clients, especially those from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
References
Brown, H. Q. (unpublished). As the mantle falls.
Brown, H. Q. (unpublished). As the mantle falls.×
Brown, H. Q. (1880). Bits and odds–A choice selection of recitations for school, lyceum, and parlor entertainments. Xenia OH: Chew Press.
Brown, H. Q. (1880). Bits and odds–A choice selection of recitations for school, lyceum, and parlor entertainments. Xenia OH: Chew Press.×
Brown, H. Q. (1910). Elocution and physical culture: Training for students, teachers, readers, public speakers. Wilberforce OH: Homewood Cottage.
Brown, H. Q. (1910). Elocution and physical culture: Training for students, teachers, readers, public speakers. Wilberforce OH: Homewood Cottage.×
Duchan, J. (2007). Undermining unfair constraints imposed by language standards. Topics in Language Disorders, 27, 74–83.
Duchan, J. (2007). Undermining unfair constraints imposed by language standards. Topics in Language Disorders, 27, 74–83.×
Hyter, Y. & Duchan, J. (2008). Hallie Quinn Brown (1850–1949). http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/new_history/hist20c/hallie_brown.html. Retrieved January 5, 2008.
Hyter, Y. & Duchan, J. (2008). Hallie Quinn Brown (1850–1949). http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/new_history/hist20c/hallie_brown.html. Retrieved January 5, 2008.×
Stathopoulos, E. & Duchan, J. (2006). History and principles of exercise-based therapy: How they inform our current treatment. Seminars in Speech and Language, 27, 227–235. [Article] [PubMed]
Stathopoulos, E. & Duchan, J. (2006). History and principles of exercise-based therapy: How they inform our current treatment. Seminars in Speech and Language, 27, 227–235. [Article] [PubMed]×
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February 2008
Volume 13, Issue 2