Odessa Brown (she/her)

By Zachary Peeples

A drawing of a pink stethoscope.
“Stethoscope” by Anonymouse.

April 30th, 1920 – Oct. 15th, 1969

During and post World War II, Seattle began to see a large influx of African American migration from other US regions. Seattle’s Black population grew from 3,700 in 1940 to 26,000 by 1960. Roosevelt’s Executive order 8802 had prohibited employment discrimination in firms with government contracts. The order and increased need for war industry labor gave Black people (mostly from southern states) motive to migrate to the Pacific Northwest in search of work and prosperity.

Throughout the 1950s the private sectors continued to discriminate against Black workers and kept them from finding positions in expanding industries like electronics, chemicals, retail, and supplemental services like healthcare. Besides worker discrimination, Black Seattleites also faced abuse from police and targeted discrimination in housing markets. By 1960, The Central District, Seattle’s oldest residential neighborhood, was home to 78% of Black Seattleites.

In 1963, 43 year old Odessa Brown moved to Seattle. Brown was an Arkansas native who moved to Chicago when she was young. Brown was trained in Chicago as a licensed beautician, but in Seattle, Brown took care of her four children by working as a community organizer for the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP).

In 1964, during the Civil Rights Movement, The Economic Opportunity Act came out of  President Lynden B. Johnson’s war on poverty. Its goal was to fund programs and organizations that could assist community wellness. CAMP was part of the first generation of organizations–some argue the very first–to be funded by the EOA. CAMP helped Seattle’s Black communities thrive with services such as childcare and job placement, and supported creative arts and community beautification. Odessa worked for CAMP as a community outreach ambassador. Her primary focus was promoting community awareness of the need for a Central District pediatric healthcare facility. Brown had dealt with health issues at a young age and, because of her race, had been turned away from a Chicago hospital, so she understood the need for community healthcare that was for us, by us. She often advocated on behalf of the community to Seattle’s division of the Model Cities, another federal program that focused on building infrastructure in underserved urban neighborhoods. Her tireless work paid off as she persuaded Model Cities to develop a Central District Pediatric Clinic.

Brown unfortunately never saw the clinic open. She passed away from Leukemia on October 15th, 1969 at the age of 49. She did not let her illness stop her from campaigning for her Seattle community, and when the clinic opened a year later, no one argued with naming it the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.

Today, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic still serves the Central District Community, and in 2022, it opened a second location in the Othello district, another one of Seattle’s historically Black and Brown neighborhoods.


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Badass Womxn and Enbies in the Pacific Northwest Volume 2 Copyright © 2023 by Badass Zine Machine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.