The Heroes We Don’t Know

Rosa Parks.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ethel Mae Brown.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the first two names, but probably not the third. And yet Ethel Mae Brown was a legend in her own right - a woman who decided she wanted to do something about the unfair treatment of her children, who were still attending segregated schools.

How do I know about her? She was the mother of one of my recent clients, Ethel Hill. Ethel was one of only eight blacks in her Freshman class at Penn State. Growing up, her church's minister mentored a young Martin Luther King, Jr. while he studied at a nearby seminary. Ethel not only heard some of King's early speeches, but was no doubt inspired by the strong women around her.

This story of Ethel's mother’s crusade is the perfect example of how so many people have stories that were never documented in our history books but were incredibly important to changing society.

While I will never know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of an African-American woman growing up during segregation, listening to Ethel’s story painted a vivid picture for me of what life was like for her and the strength she’s had throughout her life. I feel privileged to have had the chance to hear her stories.

Think about your own extended family and the little-known heroes who did courageous things for their family, their town, or their country. Recognize that their stories have meaning and value beyond your immediate relatives and find a way to preserve them.