The William A. Brown Memorial Lecture Fund

In honor of the memory of William A. Brown, who passed away recently, a group of his friends, colleagues, and alumni/e have launched a drive to establish the William A. Brown Memorial Lecture Fund. Income from the fund will be used to fund an annual lecture on Islam and Islamic Culture in West African History, Bill’s specialty. We feel that this is appropriate means of honoring Bill’s memory as both a student and a faculty member in the history department as well as reminding us all of the continuing importance of West African and Islamic History. We have already received pledges of over $16,000 from alumni/e and colleagues to date towards our goal of $25,000.

The fund will be formally designated as follows: The purpose of the fund is to support the William Allen Brown Memorial Lecture on Islam in West African History. It is set up in honor of the memory of William Allen Brown, who earned his PhD in African History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and who was a professor of West African History in the department for over thirty years. Income from the fund will be used exclusively for the purpose of funding a periodic lecture, annually if possible, to be given on an aspect of Islam in West African History.

Gifts in Bill’s memory can be made by check, credit card, or appreciated stock. Checks should be made out to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, including the William A Brown Lecture Fund on the memo line, and sent to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, U.S. Bank Lock-box, P.O. Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807. Alternatively, you may donate by credit card at the Foundation’s website:  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Katie Rather at 608-265-3526 or at the Foundation.

If you have already pledged, please accept our thanks.


Prof William A. Brown (1934-2007)

William Allen Brown, Ph.D., age 73, passed away at home on Tuesday, August 28, 2007. William was born on January 29, 1934 in Beauford, North Carolina, where he attended DeWitt Clinton High School prior to joining the Air Force. On leaving the Air Force, he enrolled in Kentucky State University, where he majored in History, Government, French Language and Literature; graduating with highest distinction as valedictorian in 1959. He was then awarded a Fulbright grant to attend the Universitè de Sorbonne in Paris, where he again led his class.

Upon completing his studies in France, he entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study African history and Islamic studies. At Wisconsin, he was awarded a number of fellowships, including: a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, National Defense Foreign Language Fellowship in Arabic, and a Foreign Area Fellowship for Africa. He conducted research in Mali from 1965-66 for his doctoral dissertation, “The Caliphate of Humdullahi, ca. 1818-1864: A Study in African History and Tradition,” which he submitted to Wisconsin in 1969 and remains the authoritative study of the area.

Prof. Brown started his teaching career at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and subsequently held positions at Yale University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from which he retired as Emeritus Professor in 2006. He received research grants from the Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, The American Council of Learned Societies, The American Philosophical Society , and he published “ Toward a Chronology for the Caliphate of Hamdullah,” Cahiers D’ etudes Africanines; “ A New Bio-bibliographical Aid; ‘ The Izalat Al-Rayb’ of Muhammad Boul Araf” and “Nasiwal Asudan”: A Guide to Legal History in Mali,” both in the Research bulletin Center of Arabic Documentation, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and Great Rulers of the African Past. Prof. Brown also organized the first conference on Black Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1967 that resulted in the publication of S. Henderson and M. Cook (eds.), The Militant Black Writer in the U.S. and Africa.

William Brown is preceded in death by both parents, Mildred and William Brown, a nephew, Stacy Mumford, and his youngest sister, Mildred Denise Brown. He is survived by two sisters, Patricia Lessner and Marsha Brown; two nephews, Mark and Myles; two nieces, April and Robin; four grand nephews, Shabar, Mark Jr., Amir and Jaden; two great nieces, Jaquel and Shanel; and his brother-in-law Fred Philpot Jr.