R. H. Brown’s voice is one of the most recognizable in north Mississippi.
He preaches the word from the pulpit at his West Point church, and he is a master at relaying stories of human interest for WCBI out of Columbus.
On Wednesday, he was the keynote speaker at West Point High School’s Black History program.
That distinct voice and his unique dialect comes from his birthplace on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
“I represent an unusual group of African Americans,” Brown told the packed auditorium of high school kids. “I represent the purest bloodlines of the African Americans who were brought over here as slaves on wooden ships.”
The self-published author of his autobiography “Call Me Gullah: An American Heritage” Brown’s family is directly descended from African slaves, which comes with its own unique culture and way of speaking.
“If you went up to St. Helena Island, you would not be able to understand what the people are saying,” Brown said.
Brown pointed out that St. Helena has been the home or near a lot of black historic moments.
First, it was near Fort Sumpter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The war would eventually lead to the end of slavery.
Brown says that while the war was being fought, Quakers came down from Pennsylvania to open schools and teach freed black men how to read.
“The schools were started in my backyard,” Brown said. “They built a school close to where my brothers and I played football.”
Brown started out with aspirations of owning a radio station, a goal he achieved at one point in his life.
“I did own a radio station,” Brown said. “I didn’t make any money, but I owned a radio station.”
Brown told the students that education is not only important, but it’s important to get it fast.
“Education means so much,” Brown said.
Brown read a pair of selections from his autobiography to the crowd, but his overall message was one of hope.
“You guys all know what you want to be,” he said. “Make it happen. You are a great group of young folks, and you have a lot of potential.”