Who is the Brandon Family?
The story of the Brandon family is a testament to resilience, entrepreneurship, and activism. Born into slavery, Henderson Brandon defied the odds to become a businessman and a master craftsman. Together with his son, Daniel, they established the renowned brick masonry firm, Henderson Brandon & Son. Their skillful craftsmanship was instrumental in shaping a rapidly modernizing Huntsville, with their work extending even beyond the city limits to Madison and Decatur.
Henderson Brandon's impact wasn't limited to his professional success. He was twice elected as a Huntsville City Alderman, a remarkable achievement at a time when Alabama's 1901 Constitution disenfranchised most Black voters during the era of Jim Crow. Brandon emerged as a dedicated activist, advocating for education, entrepreneurship, and economic independence as avenues for Black empowerment.
Voting rights were a core belief within the Brandon family. Ellen Brandon, the wife of Daniel Brandon, played a pivotal role as one of six Black women who bravely registered to vote in 1920. This remarkable act of courage and determination was honored by the Historic Huntsville Foundation (HHF), which dedicated a historic marker in their memory in October 2021. The Brandon family's enduring commitment to progress and equality continues to inspire and uplift generations to this day.
Brick by Brick: The Legacy of Henderson and Daniel Brandon”
The "Brick by Brick: The Legacy of Henderson and Daniel Brandon" exhibit made its debut in February 2023 and has since become a permanent fixture at the Harrison Brothers building within the Historic Huntsville Museum. The exhibition tells the compelling story of the Brandon family's remarkable journey from enslavement to freedom. Their masonry firm stands as a testament to their enduring legacy, having played a pivotal role in the construction of some of Huntsville's most iconic buildings.
This captivating exhibition, curated by piecing together fragments of newspaper articles, public documents, and scarce primary sources, sheds light on how the Brandon family navigated the challenging transition from the Reconstruction era to the oppressive Jim Crow era. Their story reveals how they not only built structures but also a business that fostered economic independence for themselves and countless other Black families in the community.
This exhibition serves as a lasting tribute to the spirit and accomplishments of the Brandon family, offering a glimpse into their extraordinary journey and the profound impact they had on the community of Huntsville.
The Harrison Brothers building where the Brick by Brick exhibit resides is also home to Harrison Brothers Hardware. Harrison Brothers is the best-preserved example of a Brandon building. When the original Harrison Brothers building was destroyed in a 1901 fire, Daniel Brandon won the contract to rebuild it, and it has become a beloved icon of Downtown Huntsville. The Historic Huntsville Foundation purchased the structure in 1984, retaining its rustic interior but converting it into a gift shop and art gallery featuring local artists.
We invite you to join the Huntsville community in honoring the contributions and legacy of the Brandon Family with a visit to the Historic Huntsville Museum.
Historic Huntsville Museum
Location: Within Harrison Brothers Hardware - 124 Southside Square, Huntsville, AL 35801.
Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM.