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“You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World” by Robert J. Brown

c.2019, Convergent

$26.00 / $35.00 Canada

237 pages

Do unto others.

Three words that are a shorthand reminder to be nice and treat people in the manner that you’d want to be treated. Do unto others and make life smoother. Be good, and be of service because, as Robert J. Brown reminds readers, “You Can’t Do Wrong Doing Right.”

Almost from his moment of birth, “Bobby” Brown was the recipient of kindness: his mother was an impulsive teen who’d already had one son she didn’t want, so Brown’s grandmother took both boys in and raised them at a time when she and her husband should’ve been thinking about retirement.

“We were raised in faith…” says Brown, and it was by example: nobody in need was ever turned away at Miss Nellie’s house, even though the Browns had little themselves. For Brown, that included medical care; he was a sickly child and because he couldn’t run or jump, he assumed a “role of peacemaker” instead.

“It’s funny,” he says, “how our childhood ways offer preview into our adult lives.”

After graduation from high school, Brown attempted college but his grandparents’ health pulled him back home, where he ultimately joined the police force. There, he scaled the department through undercover work, and caught the eye of officials at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics; they offered him a job in New York City. Brown’s wife loved it there, but for Brown, the Big Apple wasn’t home and besides, he’d been thinking of changing careers.

He returned to High Point, North Carolina, and opened a PR firm, B&C Associates.

This was during the early years of the Civil Rights movement, and opening a business was difficult for any Black man in the South. Brown had determined that his firm would stand on problem-solving and there was no bigger problem than Jim Crow, so he set his sights on working with corporations that needed his negotiating skills to avoid protests and boycotts. Emboldened by small successes, he ultimately requested a meeting with the head of Woolworth’s — and he got the job!

Fifty-some years have passed since that time, so you can well imagine that there’s more to author Robert J. Brown’s story. The rest involves names you’ll recognize and a lively historical point-of-view that’s truly unique.

Indeed, what you’ll read inside “You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right” isn’t your usual Civil Rights eyewitness report. As a business owner and a Black man, Brown had a one-of-a-kind position within the movement: it was his fight, too, but “Woolworth’s was my main client…” The tight balance he shares also keeps readers on their toes.

As for the rest of the story, you’ll surely appreciate the quiet grace and faith that Brown offers in its telling. His stories of Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon, and Nelson Mandela are incredible, both in scope and in personality.

Overall, this is a humble, gracious memoir that will speak to readers who love uncovering history, and to businesspeople needing inspiration. “You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right” could be the exact right book for you.

Updated 10:55 am, March 12, 2019
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