The daughter of former slaves, Brown graduated from Wilberforce in 1873 and then taught in schools in Mississippi and South Carolina. She was dean of Allen University in Columbia, S.C., from 1885 to 1887 and principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from 1892 to 1893 under Booker T. Washington. She became a professor at Wilberforce in 1893, and was a frequent lecturer on African-American issues and the temperance movement.
Brown was a promoter of the Colored Woman's League of Washington, D.C., which in 1894 merged into the National Association of Colored Women. She spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1924.
Her published works include "Bits and Odds: A Choice Selection of Recitations," "First Lessons in Public Speaking" and "Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction."