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Author Claude Brown Dies at Age 64

February 6, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Claude Brown, whose 1965 book ``Manchild in the Promised Land″ exposed mainstream audiences to the raw violence that engulfed the poor children of Harlem, died at age 64.

Brown died on Saturday from a lung condition.

Published at the height of the civil rights movement, ``Manchild in the Promised Land″ quickly became a best seller. Though not published as a memoir, the tale of a boyhood spent among killers, drug addicts and prostitutes closely paralleled Brown’s life.

Born in 1937 in Harlem, Brown was kicked out of school when he was 8, joined a gang at age 9, was shot in the leg during a burglary at 13 and was confined to a reform school at 14. Eventually, he attended Howard University, graduating in 1965, and then went to law school at Stanford and Rutgers universities.

The book evoked Harlem’s astonishing culture of violence and bore witness to the way drugs had affected the neighborhood starting in the 1950s.

``Promised Land″ sold more than 4 million copies and was translated into 14 languages. It sells more than 30,000 copies annually and is required reading in many high schools and colleges.

His second book, ``The Children of Ham,″ published in 1976, told the story of a group of Harlem teen-agers who escape from the influence of heroin.

Brown spent much of the following two decades writing magazine articles, lecturing and teaching. In later years, he worked on a book comparing his own childhood experience to those of children growing up in Harlem in the 1980s, during the crack epidemic. He never finished it, but he did publish articles on the subject.

``In the New York City teen-age gang fights of the 1940′s and 50′s we used homemade guns, zip guns and knives,″ he wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1988. ``Now America’s inner cities have become the spawning grounds for adolescents who bear increasingly appalling resemblances to rabid, homicidal maniacs.″

He is survived by companion Laura Higgins, a daughter, a son and one grandson.

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