by Kyle Cooke • Published on November 18, 2021
AURORA, Colo. — Two new magnet schools in Aurora will be named after iconic Black Coloradans, the Aurora Public School (APS) system announced.
In August 2022, students will begin attending the Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy and The Charles Burrell Visual and Performing Arts Campus. These two schools will be the first to open as part of Blueprint APS, a long-term plan to increase enrollment at Aurora Public Schools.
Clara Brown, known as the “Angel of the Rockies,” was born into slavery in 1800. She worked in the fields of a Virginia tobacco farm and was relocated when the Virginia slave owner, Adam Smith, moved to Kentucky. When she was 18, Brown married another enslaved person named Richard. They had four children together.
When Brown was 35 years old, the slave owner sold her to a plantation owner in Kentucky. She was separated from her family.
In 1859, Brown’s owner freed her. She was soon hired as a maid and cook for a family that was heading west. She is believed to be the first Black woman to cross the plains during the Gold Rush.
Brown was successful in the West. According to a brief biography from the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, Brown lived in Central City and opened the area’s first laundry. She amassed $10,000 by 1866, ten years before Colorado would officially become a state.
“As 'Aunt' Clara Brown’s profits in mines and real estate grew, she became more charitable, never turning away anyone in need,” according to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame website.
Brown later traveled back to the South in an attempt to find her husband and children. Though she was unsuccessful, she guided more than a dozen recently freed men and women back to Colorado with her.
In 1989, more than a century after she died, Brown was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
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