Ross D. Brown (1885-1965) was a black radical, socialist, poet, activist, orator, organizer, inventor, preacher, author, publisher, and more. Born in Indiana, Brown eventually migrated north to Chicago during the city’s Black Renaissance, publishing over 20 works of poetry and essay, speaking to thousands of workers all over the country, and actively working for racial, economic, and social justice.
This project—tentatively titled A Million Tongues are Calling for My Pen—seeks to form a hybrid work of biography, theory, poetry, and art, illuminating a life made obscure while asking critical questions about archives, absence, and agency. Furthermore, this is committed to engaging critical ethnography and the centering of black agency and social justice, while also examining whiteness and confronting the privilege of the project’s author.
For reasons of race and class to academia and archival practice, Ross D. Brown’s life and work have not been forgotten but made little known. The absence of scholarship on Brown and the lack of access to his writings do not speak to his impact, importance, or continued relevance, nor is that absence felt similarly by everyone.
In an early poem, “Capitol and Labor,” Brown begins by stating, “A million tongues are calling for my pen” to write about the inhumanity of capitalism and the promise of socialism. It is my hope that this project in some small way can help resound and reaffirm that call, along with Brown’s race-conscious radicalism, a noise as here and necessary as ever.