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San Diego​

​​Harold Brown, the first African American administrator at San Diego State University, is a champion of civil rights, a conservator of African American history and a lifelong crusader on behalf of San Diego’s underrepresented communities.

Mr. Brown cofounded and chaired the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality in 1961. Despite being arrested and jailed for protesting discriminatory hiring, he continued to challenge unfair employment and housing practices by organizing demonstrations and sit-ins throughout San Diego.

His oral histories have been recorded by the Civil Rights Oral History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Mr. Brown enrolled at San Diego State College on a basketball scholarship in 1953. He was president of Kappa Alpha Psi, the first black fraternity on campus; a star basketball player who also lettered in baseball; and a student council representative who challenged the discriminatory practices of fraternities and sororities.

After serving in the military, he earned a degree from San Diego State University in speech and physical education and later earned a master’s degree in business administration from Fordham University. Mr. Brown worked as a teacher, a banker and a Peace Corps officer in Lesotho, Africa, before returning to SDSU in 1971 to work in Academic Affairs. He established the Afro-American Studies program, led creation of its curriculum and became its first director. He also created a certificate program in community economic development within the Fowler College of Business. This program later expanded into the Center for Community Economic Development under Mr. Brown’s direction, offering classes in finance, accounting and leadership to train professionals to develop underserved communities. He retired from SDSU in 1997, but continued as director of the center until 2004.

Currently, Mr. Brown leads efforts to increase public appreciation of the importance of the Civil Rights movement. Through his advocacy and the donation of his own personal papers, the SDSU Library established the Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African American Experience Collection, which preserves historical photographs, documents and oral accounts essential to understanding the African American experience in San Diego and the United States. In recognition of Harold Brown’s dedication to serving and celebrating underrepresented communities, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are honored to confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.