One of our goals here at here at the Brookland Bridge is to discover and celebrate Brookland’s rich history. This is the first installment in a series of stories focusing on our neighborhood’s history.
At 1222 Kearney St. NE you can find the home Sterling Brown lived in from 1935 till his death in 1989. The Washington DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities placed this sign at the home to commemorate this famous poet, author and professor. Brown was a professor at Howard University for over 40 years. Although he spent the majority of his life here in Brookland, he is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance artistic movement. Brown’s academic and literary focus was African-American folk life, culture, and language. His 1932 book, Southern Road, produced the poem “Strong Men,” a groundbreaking poem about the Middle Passage of slavery, that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit during such horrid circumstances. Brown, and fellow authors/poets/folk life academics Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are credited with elevating and revolutionizing how African-American “folk speech” is regarded. By moving beyond stereotypes to understand people and culture he infused his writings with a full, nuanced, reality-based folk aesthetic. Some of his notable students include Toni Morrison, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sowell, Ossie Davis, Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones) and Ralph Bunche – a fellow Brookland resident.