Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum

The restored campus buildings of the Palmer Memorial Institute are now the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, which belongs to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and links Dr. Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute to the larger themes of African American women, education, and social history, with an emphasis on the contributions made by African American citizens to education in North Carolina.

After one year of college, Brown was hired to work at the Bethany Institute, a rural school for African American children, in Sedalia, North Carolina. Brown arrived to the school, run by the American Missionary Association, in 1901 to find it severely lacking in resources.

When the American Missionary Association decided to close the school a year later, Brown decided to create a school on her own. Coming from humble beginnings in a small blacksmith’s cabin, Brown continued raising money, eventually obtaining 200 acres and constructing two new buildings for her campus. The school was named the Palmer Memorial Institute, in honor of Alice Freeman Palmer, and was a day and boarding school for African Americans. Brown worked tirelessly to create a safe haven for African American youth, she established the Palmer Memorial Institute’s board of trustees entirely of African Americans. Brown’s institute served as one of the only schools in North Carolina to offer college preparatory programs.

By the 1920s, the Palmer Memorial Institute was an established and successful boarding school attracting students from around the country, many of whom went on to become educators. Brown attracted national attention for her efforts, lecturing frequently at colleges around the country and receiving several honorary degrees. In 1941 she published The Correct Thing To Do–To Say–To Wear, committing many of her educational philosophies and maxims in print. She continued to run the school until her retirement in 1952.

In addition to her work at the Palmer Institute, Brown was active in national efforts to improve opportunities for African Americans, including the Southern Commission for Interracial Cooperation and the Negro Business League. She was the first African American woman named to the national board of the YWCA. She was an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

The museum’s visitor center is located in the Carrie M. Stone Teachers’ Cottage (1948), and features exhibits about Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, the Institute and African American education in North Carolina. There is also a video about the school. Visitors can tour Dr. Brown’s residence, known as Canary Cottage, which has been furnished to reflect the 1940s and 1950s, when the school was at its peak. Several dormitories, the dining hall, bell tower, teahouse and several teachers’ cottage can also be seen.

Source – Wikipedia

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