Lucy Manetta Hughes was born in Mebanesville, North Carolina in 1863 and was orphaned as a young child. She graduated from Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina in 1885 and married Rev. David Brown four years later. In 1894 she graduated with a degree in medicine from Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. She went on to become the first African-American woman to receive a professional license from the North Carolina Medical Board.
After practicing medicine in Wilmington, North Carolina for two years, she and her husband moved to Charleston in 1896. She was the state’s first African-American woman physician and joined with other black professionals—including Dr. Alonzo Clifton McClennan—to co-found the Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1897.
Brown became head of the school’s department of nursing and its associated training program. She presented lectures and stressed that practical experience was preferable to textbook knowledge, although she advised students to prepare with a combination of both classroom and practical knowledge. During a two-year program, students spent the first year attending lectures and gaining practical skills in the hospital. The second year was devoted to practical hospital work and assisting cases in the adjacent communities. The first class of nurses benefiting from Brown’s guidance graduated in 1898.
Brown also helped to edit the state’s first black medical periodical, the Hospital Herald, which was founded in 1898 In 1902, the British Journal of Nursing recognized her as a leader in her profession in South Carolina. Due to ill health, Brown retired in 1904. She died in Charlotte on June 26, 1911.