Benjamin Griffith Brawley was a prominent African-American author and educator. Several of his books were considered standard college texts, including The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States and New Survey of English Literature.
Brawley was born on April 22, 1882, in Columbia to prominent Baptist parents. His father, the Reverend Edward McKnight Brawley, is remembered as the founder of Morris College in Sumter.
A gifted and enthusiastic student, Brawley earned degrees from the University of Chicago (A.B., 1906) and Harvard (M.A., 1908). In 1912, he married Hilda Damaris Prowd. The two had no children. In 1921, Brawley was ordained as a Baptist minister by the Massachusetts Baptist Convention. For two years in the early 1920s, he served as pastor of the Messiah Baptist Church of Brockton, Massachusetts.
Between 1902 and 1939 Brawley taught English at various predominantly black colleges in the South and East. He was twice at Atlanta Baptist College (later Morehouse College), from 1902 to 1910 and again from 1912 to 1920.
Brawley developed into a prolific writer, contributing works to such periodicals as Bookman, Dial, North American Review, Sewanee Review, and Reviewer. But it was in his writing and editing of books about the African American experience that he pioneered. While he was teaching at Morehouse in 1909, a student pleaded with him to write a textbook that would enable black students to learn something of the experiences and accomplishments of their own people. Four years later, in 1913, Macmillan published his book A Short History of the American Negro.
From 1923 to 1931 Brawley was on the English faculty at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. He served as professor of English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., during two separate periods: from 1910 to 1912 and from 1931 until his death.