Fredi Sears Brown was born on December 4, 1923 in Bradenton, FL to Oscar and Mary Sears. She departed this life on March 9, 2021 in Tamarac, FL, where she had moved to be near her daughter.
She and her siblings grew up attending St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church. In 1939, after graduating as valedictorian from her Lincoln High School senior class, she enrolled at Florida A&M College (later University) in Tallahas- see, FL. After graduating from Florida A & M College in 1944, she never looked back. Following an internship in Hartford, CT, the plan was to head to Iowa State University to complete a Master’s Degree. Instead, Fredi heard about a black-owned newspaper in Kansas City, MO. At 20 years of age, in the midst of a World War, she changed direction and went off to Kansas City. There she landed a position writing advertising copy at the Kansas City Call. She caught the eye of a young reporter who, oddly enough, had been born in Iowa. His name was Ernest Leroy Brown, Jr. and he would become the love of her life.
The young couple relocated to Detroit, MI, in 1946, married and started their family of three boys and one daughter. For the next 3 decades, her main job was to take care of the home, but she found time to offer her services where they were most needed with Detroit’s underserved black neighborhoods. She worked with the GED program, counseled teen substance abusers, taught English to incarcerated women and established a library in a housing devel- opment community center. It was during this time that the country was going through massive changes as African-Americans fought for civil rights. She and her husband began collecting black memorabilia to capture it all.
Upon her husband’s retirement in 1974, they moved to her hometown of Bradenton. She entered the job market, landing a full-time position at Manatee Community College as a recruiter and Equal Access/Equal Opportunity Coordinator. During this time, she decided to further her education and earned a Master of Science in Education in 1981 from the University of South Florida, Sarasota Campus.
In 1990, their Family Heritage House Museum had its beginnings in a small trailer donated by the local Head Start Program. A decade later, Manatee Community College welcomed the collection with its own 2,085-square-foot wing in the college library. Over the years, the museum has continued to expand. In 2018, it moved to the new Library and Learning Center on the campus of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.
Though Ernest Brown died in 2001, Fredi continued her support of the museum until failing health forced her to step down. However, the Family Heritage House Museum will remain a legacy to her life of service.
In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her youngest son Peter. She is survived by sons Ernest (Lynn) and Kevin (Kay) and daughter Beverly (David).
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