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Getting to Know Her Face

Harriet Elizabeth Brown portrait puts a face to the name that helped earn equal pay for teachers of all races

Equal pay for Maryland teachers across the races was a battle quietly fought and won in Calvert County 80 years ago, thanks to the efforts of a young, determined African American teacher, Harriet Elizabeth Brown.
    We all know the name Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer who helped her prevail and went on to great things, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
    After winning her landmark Fourteenth Amendment challenge, Brown went quietly back to teaching in Calvert County schools, where she, her sister Regina and other black teachers no longer earned three to four times less than their white counterparts. Eventually both sisters were promoted to principals.
    Now, Harriet Elizabeth Brown is getting her due as a name and face, well known in Maryland.
    She now has an official portrait, painted by an artist whose signature underwrites the significance of her subjects. Ann Munro Wood, of Annapolis, is an artist who combines classical elegance of form and proportion with the illuminated vitality of impressionism. She’s painted American history: presidents from George Washington to George H. W. Bush and heroes from John Paul Jones to Muhammad Ali.
    When Wood paints your portrait, you’re somebody.
    “Ann painted my portrait, and I know how good she is,” says Marjorie L. Clagett. “Although she was basically retired, I continued to ask, and Ann finally agreed.”
    Wood’s painting is based on a picture of Brown as a young woman, her only surviving image. The portrait now hangs in the Calvert County Courthouse.
    As well as the just unveiled official portrait, she has two namesakes: the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Memorial Parkway, a section of Rt. 2 in Sunderland, and the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Community Center in Prince Frederick.