Palmer Memorial Institute State Historic Site

By November 9, 2017 No Comments
Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Palmer Memorial Institute State Historic Site is located just 10 miles east of Greensboro NC off I-40/85, exit 135 in Sedalia, North Carolina. The state historic site preserves a school founded in 1902 by Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883-1961). A brave young woman born in North Carolina but educated in Cambridge Massachusetts, at age 19 she established a school which provided education for rural black children otherwise forced to attend completely inadequate schools open only a few months each year. Brown’s vision and indefatigable work over 58 years built a campus for students ‘Palmerites’ to get both vocational and liberal education, drawing students from all over North Carolina and the east coast which later “evolved into an elite preparatory school equipping its students with a classical education, discipline, poise and ambition” (Charlotte Hawkins Brown, The Correct Thing to Do, to Say and to Wear, p. 1).

With her friends and colleagues Nannie Helen Burroughs (Washington D.C.’s National Institute for Training Women and Girls) and Mary McLeod Bethune (Florida’s Bethune-Cookman College), Brown also worked hard to support greater education, visibility and power for black women, to support racial progress and to strengthen many black organizations. Brown who believed that her students needed to know how to handle all kinds of situations wrote a book on etiquette and life manners The Correct Thing to Do, to Say and to Wear (1941). She died in 1961; her school closed ten years later.

In addition to an informative if somewhat dated orientation film and some excellent exhibits, visitors can see the PMI campus including President Brown’s Canary Cottage where she lived and entertained.  The site’s interpreter gave us a thoughtful, very well informed tour—she was a Palmerite herself.  Here, black history and women’s history merge and provide insights to both.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum at Historic Palmer Memorial Institute

For more information on Brown and the Palmer Memorial Institute, see Charlotte Hawkins Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute: What One Young African American Woman Could Do by Charles W. Wadelington and Richard F. Knapp; University of North Carolina Press; Chapel Hill, 1999 and Charlotte Hawkins Brown, The Correct Thing to Do, to Say and to Wear (1941); reprinted, 2003 by the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Foundation, Inc. Sedalia, NC. See also:

Name Location Significance Significant era Reviewer
Palmer Memorial Institute State Historic Site Sedalia, North Carolina Development of rural southern African American education and resources; Charlotte Hawkins Brown 1902-1971