Ina Corinne Brown, teacher, was born in Gatesville, Texas, on May 27, 1896, the daughter of John Dayton and Corinne (Wells) Brown. She was a descendant of Orceneth Fisher, prominent pioneer Methodist preacher in Texas. Her great-grandfather Fisher's second wife was Rebecca Jane Fisher. Ina attended Southern Methodist University from 1919 to 1921. She then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she served on the educational staff of the Methodist Church until 1934. The University of Chicago granted her a B.A. degree in 1936 and a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1942. She also studied at the London School of Economics and, in 1937–38, at the British Museum on a Rosenwald Fellowship. From 1939 to 1941 she worked for the federal government's National Survey of Higher Education for Negroes. Her duties there included assisting black colleges throughout the United States to develop their curricula. She also traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and Africa to study racial problems. She was professor of social anthropology at Scarritt College, Nashville, from 1942 to 1966; after her retirement she was professor emeritus there. She was a special lecturer at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, and Fisk University, all in Nashville. She was the author of three books on race relations: The Story of the American Negro (1936), Race Relations in a Democracy (1949), and Understanding Other Cultures (1963). Understanding Other Cultures was once required freshman English reading at the University of Texas and has been used in Japanese colleges for students learning English. Brown contributed to the Encyclopedia of Black America (1981), and she was a consultant in behavioral sciences to World Book Encyclopedia from 1963 to 1966.
Ina Brown was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, the International Federation of University Women, and the American Association of University Women. She was a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, the American Geographical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the Society for Applied Anthropology. She served as a consultant to city public school systems involved in desegregation in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida, a service sponsored by Peabody College.
In 1929–30 she and a woman companion crossed Central Africa from the mouth of the Congo on the west coast to Mombasa in British East Africa (now Kenya) on the east coast, a distance of 1,700 miles. It was a journey that probably no woman had made before that time. The two traveled by boat and train, were carried in hammocks, and walked. On her trip to Asia Brown interviewed Mahatma Gandhi and Toyohiko Kagawa. In her later years her health was poor, but she continued her reading and writing–especially letters to the Nashville daily papers. She was chosen in 1984 as a distinguished alumna of Southern Methodist University. Ina Brown died in Hermitage, Tennessee, near Nashville, on May 12, 1984.