Lydia Grinnell Brown

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Recovering a more diverse history and geography of internationalism often requires us to approach events, not from the starting point of the major intellectual and political figures who attended, but from the perspective of the organisers, secretaries, typists, translators and interpreters who played a largely hidden role in facilitating it – what the Swiss historian Madeleine Herren has termed the ‘subaltern diplomat’. Placing the day-to-day labour of conference organising at the centre offers a means to ask who speaks for whom in our global histories, opening a space to question elite, male definitions of what Pan-Africanism was and to whom we think it mattered. Lydia Grinnell Brown (1895-1945) was the first African American graduate of Simmons College in Boston and a talented linguist. Besides English, her fluency in French, German and Spanish meant she served as a translator in Boston during the war, and she went on to attend the Second Pan-African Congress in London, Brussels and Paris in 1921 as an interpreter and secretary.

Further information:

See Ann O’Leary, “Lydia Grinnell Brown”, Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the Southcoast,