Noted Black Educator Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Palmer Memorial Institute Class of 1933

Charlotte Hawkins BrownNoted African-American educator and founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown was born in Henderson. She moved to Massachusetts with her family when she was young, but returned to North Carolina in 1901 to help educate southern blacks. In 1902, Brown established the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia. She named the school for Alice Freeman Palmer, a former president of Wellesley College, who was a friend and benefactor.

It first operated out of an old blacksmith shop, but eventually grew to house hundreds of students in more than a dozen buildings. Palmer grew to become known as an elite black preparatory school, hosting students from all over the country and world. During her tenure at Palmer, Brown actively toured, speaking on behalf of women’s suffrage and racial equality. She devoted her life to the improvement of the African American community’s social standing and was active in the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded by celebrated educator Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935. As president of the North Carolina State Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs, Brown also directed African American women’s formal civic experiences for more than 20 years.

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