Book Review: Biography 0f Dr. Angie Elizabeth Brooks-Randolph

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Dr. Angie Elizabeth Brooks-Randolph, Liberia’s Phenomenal National and International Servant, is the celebratory biography of this great Liberian woman who rose from a poverty-stricken background to become the only African female President of the UN General Assembly.

The biography, written by the renowned Liberian author and educator, Sister Mary Laurene Browne, digs deep into the personal life of Dr. Angie Elizabeth Brooks-Randolph, and provides detailed information about her struggles to break political and cultural barriers to become the first female Assistant Secretary of State (now Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs).

A must read, the biography opens with a short history of the world and later Liberia, the formation of the state, the arrival of freed men and women from the United States, the country’s politics, and Madam Brooks’ family linage.

The book then quickly moves to the birth of Angie Brooks, the first female Associate Justice of Liberia, her marriage, at very tender age, to and divorce from Richard A. Henries, former Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives (now deceased) and her mother’s challenge to her to “Make Your Mark.”

Immediately after the break down of her first marriage, Dr. Angie Elizabeth Brooks-Randolph developed an audacious dream: to change the stereotype at the time that women could not perform better in politics compared to their male counterparts, and that they were only good as housewives or market sellers.

With such a cultural practice alive, she was married, yet without a college education, and quickly and in rapid succession bore Counselor Henries three sons. But she was fortunate to have a job at the Justice Department (now Ministry of Justice) as a stenotypist, a shorthand in which alphabetic letters or types are used to produce shortened forms of words or groups of words.

As Sister Mary Laurene Browne wrote, raising funds to go to college became a difficult task, but through the goodwill of President William V.S Tubman, Angie Brooks got a scholarship to study at Shaw University in the US, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Social Science in 1949.

While there, Dr. Angie Brooks-Randolph, the first practical female lawyer of Liberia, partially financed her studies by working as a dishwasher, laundress, a library assistant, and nurse’s aide.

A humble and intelligent person, as Sister Browne described her, Miss Brooks returned home and was appointed Assistant Attorney General in President Tubman’s government. In no time, her performance in the position caught the attention of the president, who rewarded her in 1954 as one of the members of the Liberian delegation to the United Nations.

Using her education and experience as a results-oriented person, she soon began to prove her worth not just merely as a member of the Liberian delegation but someone who was capable of helping the UN achieve its goals.

And in no time she was elected Vice Chairman of the Fourth Committee, Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories, and started climbing in other capacities in the UN system. Soon, she became the first woman and African to head the UN Trusteeship Council, a prominent position in which oversaw the independence of half of the world’s 79 dependent territories.

The comprehensive biography didn’t just paint the picture of Dr. Angie Elizabeth Brooks-Randolph as a woman of many exceptional qualities, but also as a humble person whose love for humanity and education was unquestionable.

In the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, when racism was widespread, Miss Brooks was racially abused at the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel and the S&W cafeteria in North Carolina but she did not complain to the US government, despite her status as an international diplomat. Rather, she offered the racist manager a visit to Liberia where he would be treated humanely and with respect.

She also adopted many children, especially from some of the dependent territories, just to give them quality education. In this, she clearly demonstrated her love for humankind and a determination to find common solutions for problems, no matter the situation.

And the fact that she did this in good faith and her ability to acknowledge some mistakes, gives the reader a clear understanding of her character, and the person she truly was.
It is these sterling qualities of character and leadership that she demonstrated throughout her service at the United Nations system that ultimately led her to be elected, in 1969, as the second woman and the first and so far the only African woman President of the UN General Assembly.

The biography did not only champion her as the only Liberian woman who overcame obstacles to attain top national or international positions, but also listed other Liberian women as well, who were not just featured for the sake of their names, but because of their contributions to society.

In addition, Sister Mary Laurene Browne tried to avoid a single story but instead focused on a biography that celebrated Dr. Angie Elizabeth Brooks-Randolph’s life and achievements, portraying education as a springboard for the actualization of her audacious dreams.
Unlike many biographies of great Liberian women, Sister Browne gave credit to Presidents

Tubman, William R.  Tolbert, Jr. Samuel K. Doe, Charles G. Taylor and other Liberia men for their roles played in helping to give women a voice in politics.

This is evidenced by the fact the biographer highlighted several times, Rev.Wyndell Summerville, who through his goodwill gave Dr. Angie Elizabeth  Brooks-Randolph a scholarship which helped her to graduate from high school; President Tubman and former Vice President of Liberia, Clarence Lorenzo, who took upon himself the daunting task of training her as a lawyer.

During her lifetime, Dr. Angie Brooks-Randolph earned 18 degrees, making her the most educated Liberian woman, and the first to earn a Ph.D.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hi
    My name is Yvette, I’m enrolled in an African Studies class at the University of Pennsylvania. The class is African Women’s Lives, Past and Present. I’m interested in reading and sharing Sister Mary’s biography about Dr. Angie Brooks-Randolph. I looked online and at Penn’s library for a copy.
    Do you know where I could buy a copy or download the book?

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