A memoir from one of the most understated yet pivotal players in the history of American civil rights.
While most of his work occurred outside of the spotlight, Brown has left a deep imprint on the history of the African-American struggle for equality. Oft-identified as a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and “the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela” during his Cape Town imprisonment, the author fleshes out a lifetime studded with important experiences. Growing up in the Jim Crow North Carolina of the 1930s and ’40s, Brown endured a hardscrabble childhood under the love and tutelage of his compassionate grandmother “Mama,” Miss Nellie Brown. “Whether singing in our church’s gospel choir or canning vegetables,” writes the author, “she called out Jesus with the best of them and she set our moral compasses with lessons from the Bible.” After a stint in local law enforcement, the author landed a job in New York as a federal narcotics agent, launching a series of events that would lead to his meeting with King in 1958 and later executing a staged narcotics buy for the “Senate Rackets Committee’s top lawyer,” Robert F. Kennedy. With greater ambitions, Brown moved back to his home state and founded the public relations firm B&C International, which become the anchor of his significant role as a race-relations liaison between the black and white communities—business, political, or otherwise. Among his many achievements, the author chronicles his five years working as special assistant to President Richard Nixon, a job in which he developed the pivotal Office of Minority Business Enterprise. Throughout the volume, weaving together the stories of milestones personal and cultural, Brown continually falls back on the echoes of his grandmother, whose wisdom included the mantra, “you can find good anywhere, and you can do good everywhere.”
A humble and timely book that speaks to an era of sweeping change and a reminder that faith and love are two of the best weapons to counter hatred.