Family Digest’s Interview with
Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr.
Roscoe Brown, Jr., – born on March 9, 1922 – entered Tuskegee Institute for pre-flight training in 1943. He received his Pilot’s Wings in 1944. From Tuskegee, this Army Captain would eventually command the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group in World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with eight Oak Leaf Clusters. He is credited with being the first 15th Air Force fighter pilot to shoot down a German jet fighter, and has been honored by the Intrepid Air-Space Museum in New York City for his outstanding leadership as Squadron Commander. Captain Brown flew 68 combat missions.
FD Notes: Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., is past Director of the Center for Urban Education Policy and University Professor at the Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York, is past President of Bronx Community College of CUNY, and was formerly Director of the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University. He holds a doctorate from New York University, and has served on faculty at West Virginia State College and as a full professor at New York University’s School of Education.
Dr. Brown has received numerous awards and honors for scholarly and community activities, among them the NAACP Freedom Award, the Congressional Award for Service to the African-American Community, and the Distinguished Alumnus Awards from his alma-maters – New York University and Springfield College. He has been inducted into the National Association for Sports and Physical Education Hall of Fame, and has received honorary doctorates from Springfield College, the University of the State of New York, and the Regents of the State of New York.
Dr. Brown was an avid runner and completed the New York City Marathon nine times. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who Among Black Americans, and Who’s Who in American Education. Dr. Brown has 4 children, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.
On March 29, 2007, Brown attended a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, where he and the other Tuskegee Airmen collectively, not individually, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their service.
Dr. Brown lives in Riverdale, New York. He is also a member, and past president, of the 100 Black Men of America New York Chapter. He is currently a professor of Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center.
This interview – from Family Digest’s archives – was conducted in 2002.
FD: Dr. Brown, tell me a little about your life as a boy.
Dr. Brown: I grew up in Washington, D.C. My father, Dr. Roscoe Brown, Sr., was a member of President Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet. As a member of this unofficial group, he was in charge of health care for Blacks across the country.
FD: How about your schooling?
Dr. Brown: I went to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Even though Dunbar was segregated at the time, we sent more students to Ivy League schools than many of the White schools in the area.
FD: What was family life like for you?
Dr. Brown: We were a middle class family. Because of my father’s prominence in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to meet W.E.B DuBois, Mary McLeod Bethune, and other well-known Black leaders of the time.
FD: What did your parents do that helped launch you on your path of lifelong achievement?
Dr. Brown: My parents expected us to go to college and be successful. Even though society was segregated, my parents and the other adults I came in contact with felt that integration was going to come. We were taught to make sure that we were prepared to compete once it did come.
FD: Why flying?
Dr. Brown: I always liked the idea of flying. For me it first began as a young boy when I saw Charles Lindbergh’s plane in the Smithsonian Institute in 1928.
What Family Digest learned from Dr. Brown
1. Black parents should clearly communicate expectations of success, no matter the challenges.
2. Black children should be exposed to people, situations, and things that help them dream.
3. Teach Black children that they can compete with anyone, anywhere at anytime. Encourage them to embrace competition.
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