Charlotte Hawkins Brown (b. 1883—d. 1961)

Charlotte Hawkins Brown (b. 1883—d. 1961)

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was born in 1883 and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1902 she began her career in service by working with the American Missionary Association to teach blacks in the south. Arriving in rural North Carolina she first taught at a combination church, she then opened an industrial school in Sedalia, North Carolina named the Palmer Memorial Institute after Alice Freeman Palmer. Initially a small school, over the years the Palmer Memorial Institute garnered significant growth due to the support from wealthy Boston philanthropists as well as southern whites. The first class at the institute being held in a renovated blacksmith shed in 1902, by 1910 the property was valued at $10,000—and by 1925 Brown was able to raise $350,000 for the school and expand its facilities. She also traveled and spoke at prominent women’s colleges such as Smith, Wellesley, Mt. Holyoke, and Radcliffe as well as historically black colleges such as Howard University, Hampton Institute, and Tuskegee Institute. She was both involved in civil rights and suffragist activities. Brown was a charter member of the Southern Commission for Interracial Cooperation, the Southern Regional Council and was on the board of the Southern Region of the Urban League.  She also helped to make strides for women. She helped to found the first school for delinquent black girls. Also, Brown was an active club woman and suffragist. She as the president of the North Carolina Association of Colored Women’s club advocated for black women in discussion with white suffragists and was involved in organizing voter registration drives for black women.

Additional Sources:

Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum at Palmer Memorial Institute:

PBS Video:

Thirteen short biographies:

More about the Palmer Institute:

North Carolina Museum of History:

Short biography from North Carolina Gov:

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