Historical marker rededicated at West Orange Public Library

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Gamma Omega, a chapter of the national Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., hosted a rededication ceremony on Jan. 15 for the Anna Easter Brown historical marker on the front lawn of the West Orange Public Library.

The ceremony honored Brown, a former West Orange resident and founding member of AKA, the first sorority for African American women in the United States; it began at Howard University in 1908. The West Orange marker was originally dedicated on Feb. 12, 2016, and funded by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Trina Brinkley, of Rho Gamma Omega, served as the mistress of ceremony and introduced sorority sisters Vonda K. Johnson, Lesley-Ann Adams, Quiyon Peters and Nikki Nash, who all made brief remarks. West Orange Mayor Susan McCartney, Council President Tammy Williams and township historian Joseph Fagan all were invited to speak. AKA North Atlantic Regional Director Mary Bentley LaMar delivered the litany before a jam-packed crowd of approximately 200 attendees that filled the library, reminiscent of the 2016 dedication. After a brief break, the crowd moved outside for the marker rededication and the unveiling of a special floral bouquet in the AKA colors of pink and green.

Brown was born on April 13, 1879, in West Orange to Beverly and Lawrie Brown; her parents gave her the name Easter because she entered the world on Easter Sunday. Surviving records list her home as being on Mount Pleasant Avenue in West Orange, but do not indicate the exact location. It is not known if her former home is still standing; it may have been demolished during the construction of Route 280. Little is known about her early childhood, but she lived in West Orange during a time when it was still considered a rural farming community. The marker at the library sits somewhere between where she lived and went to school.

Brown received her schooling in West Orange at the town’s first public school, St. Mark’s School, which was used for all grades including high school and located on Main Street, then known as Valley Road. It is no longer standing, having been destroyed by a fire in 1926. The large office building at 80 Main St. occupies the site today. Records indicate that Brown was part of the West Orange High School graduating Class of 1897 and received high honors. On Jan. 15, 1908, she was among an original group of nine students, which was later joined by seven others, to establish the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority on the campus of Howard University. Brown died in 1957.

Photos Courtesy of Joseph Fagan