The Brown Fellowship Society: Funeral Society for Lighter-Skinned Black Men

1 Posted by - September 3, 2021 - BLACK MEN, LATEST POSTS

In 1790, the Brown Fellowship Society was founded. The oldest all-male funeral society in Charleston, South Carolina, it provides a historical example of how racism permeated the Black community within itself.

Among the African Americans in the South Carolina community, lighter-skinned African Americans in the Society considered themselves superior to those with a darker complexion. Similarly, lighter-skinned slaves were often given freedom while darker-skinned individuals remained in slavery. They also received other small privileges in society.

The organization was founded to benefit widows and orphans of members, allot burial spots in the society’s cemetery, and provide other member services. Unlike other benevolent societies started by free Black Americans, the Brown Fellowship did not aim to help the slave community.

The Brown Fellowship Society’s admission policy, which often tied to the white bloodline of former masters, denied membership to many blacks in Charleston. In 1843, Thomas Smalls, a free black man, applied for membership in the society and was rejected because his skin was darker and his hair was too coarse.

Smalls, a member of the Circular Congregational Church, organized his own society, The Society for Free Blacks of Dark Complexion. Later, he renamed it The Brotherly Society. Out of pure spite, the group went a step further and purchased property adjacent to the Brown Fellowship Graveyard that extended from the middle of the parking lot.

In later years, The Brown Fellowship Society tried to change its image of exclusiveness by opening their doors to others, including women after the Civil War. In 1892, it changed its name to the Century Fellowship Society.



Brown Fellowship Society (1790-1945)


  • Nathan December 26, 2015 - 11:27 am

    They should of call it The Willie Lynch Cemetery.

  • Hilda M Saulsbury June 2, 2017 - 2:01 pm

    This was yearrs ago, but what I can remember their roots extended until in front of some members of this group of people, “the lighter-skin black men” continued their rebuke.

  • Polly H.Matthews June 2, 2017 - 9:09 pm

    Is this connected to the brown society?

  • Joseph June 26, 2017 - 8:15 pm

    You know that mindset still permeates the black American society, A lot of it is driven by jealousy by darker complected Blacks because many of them still see those with the light complexion as privilieged.