"B" is for Brown Fellowship Society

Oct 2, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio

"B" is for Brown Fellowship Society. Established in 1790 by free persons of color in Charleston, the Brown Fellowship Society is one of the earliest institutions founded by African Americans in South Carolina. It was one of the myriad organizations that gave structure to the free black community and functioned primarily as a mutual aid association. It operated its own cemetery, provided assistance for needy survivors of members, and established a school. Membership was originally limited to fifty men drawn from Charleston’s free mulatto elite and their descendants. By the late nineteenth century affiliation with the society became a marker of aristocratic status within Charleston’s black community. Although the benevolent function of the Brown Fellowship Society was supplanted largely by equal access to public services, it continued as a social and burial society into the 1990s.