The collection contains a diversity of materials which document Browne's personal and professional life. The personal papers include biographical materials consisting of her birth certificate, last will and testament, and medical records as well as letters from artistic friends Jester Hairston (actor), Langston Hughes (poet), James Weldon Johnson (educator and poet) and Lois Mailou Jones (visual artist). Browne's family papers are also contained within her personal papers. These files include correspondence, military records (1916-1940, scattered) and death certificates for her cousin Walter Scott Cowen. The documents making up her professional papers primaraly reflect her artistic career. Files include correspondence, writings which include poems, short stories and plays she performed (many of which were sent to her by the artists, and printed materials consisting of programs and clippings (mainly featuring the Boston Players and Marie Joe Browne's solo performances). There are also awards and certificates that principally document Browne's service to St. Mary's County school system.
Marie Joe Browne (1902-1999) was an African-American dramatic artist, school secretary and a community volunteer. Browne was born in Richmond, Virginia to Joe and Lizz Browne. She lived most of her life in Boston, Massachusetts and relocated to St. Mary's County, Maryland in 1945, remaining there until her death.
Browne received her dramatic training from Boston's Helen Boll's Dramatic Studio. At age 24 she made her debut as a monologist and received a very favorable response. During her career she recited the works of established "New Negro" writers and poets, including Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson and Countee Cullen. Browne's training prepared her to eventually perform with the Boston Players (an all black theatrical troupe supported by the Boston Urban League). She performed with the troupe for six years, and while with them she had roles in "Scarlet Sister Mary" (1933-1934) by Julia Peterkin and Abraham's Bosom (1930) by Paul Green, among other plays. During the mid-1930s and 1940s, Browne toured various historically black colleges performing monologues.
In 1945, Browne moved to St. Mary's County, Maryland to work with the USO during World War II teaching home economics. After the war ended, the school where she taught, Jarboesville School hired her as the school secretary. In 1954 she was employed by the Spring Ridge Middle School. She retired from there in 1974 at age 72.