Important Dates in the Life of Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute

June 11, 1883
Lottie Hawkins is born in Henderson, North Carolina.
Lottie Hawkins and 19 members of her family travel by boat from Norfolk, Virginia, to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The family includes: Lottie's mother (Caroline Frances); her grandmother (Rebecca); her younger brother (Mingo); her stepfather (Willis); and various aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Lottie Hawkins organizes a kindergarten department for her church in Cambridge.
At age l4, Lottie Hawkins is chosen as orator for the minister's fifteenth anniversary. The governor of Massachusetts and some members of his advisory council are present.
Lottie Hawkins meets Alice Freeman Palmer (the first woman president of Wellesley College) for the first time.
At age l7, before graduating from the English High School of Cambridge, Lottie Hawkins changes her name to Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins. Lottie believes her new name is more cultured.
Charlotte Hawkins enters the Salem Teacher's College, in Salem, Massachusetts.
Miss Hawkins accepts a teaching position with the American Missionary Association (AMA), with the understanding that she would be allowed to complete her last year of study.
October 1901
At age l8, Miss Hawkins travels to North Carolina to teach at Bethany Institute, in Sedalia, N.C.
October 12, 1901
Fifteen children, with Hawkins as their teacher, attend Bethany Institute on the first morning it is opened.
Spring 1902
Bethany Institute closes. (The AMA closed all of its one-room schools in the South).
Summer 1902
Miss Hawkins begins to raise money to open her own school in Sedalia, North Carolina.
PMI's First Boys' Dormitory

PMI's First Boys' Dormitory

October 10, 1902
The Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute (PMI) opens its doors.
Fall 1902
Miss Hawkins names her school after pioneering educator Alice Freeman Palmer, Charlotte's mentor and supporter while she was in Massachusetts.
Summer 1903
George Herbert Palmer (husband of Alice Freeman Palmer) gives formal permission to name the school after his wife.
Palmer Memorial Institute grows steadily.
May 4, 1905
The foundation for Memorial Hall (PMI's first classroom building) is laid on the Palmer campus.
Summer of 1905
Miss Hawkins becomes ill in Boston, while soliciting funds for PMI (Hawkins traveled from hotel to hotel singing and telling the story of the founding of PMI).
PMI has its first graduation class exercises. (At this time grades 1-12 are offered, but not accredited).
Evidence of Progress Among Colored People is published. This reminds Charlotte of the unforeseen closing of Bethany Institute, but proves that a Negro woman can succeed in developing a school.
PMI teachers pledge $250.00 of their hard-earned salaries to keep the struggling school open.
The second PMI class graduates. There are 11 students who graduate: three boys and eight girls. Vina Wadlington Webb and Ida Hooker are among this group.
November 23, 1907
Charlotte Hawkins completes the formal charter of PMI. The school's charter is signed by Charlotte Hawkins, John W. H. Smith, and Cain X. Foust
Mary R. Grinnell offers support to PMI.
Construction begins on PMI's second classroom building (the Domestic Science Building).
Charlotte Hawkins becomes one of the founders of the North Carolina State Federation of Negro Women's Clubs. Their national club motto is "Lifting as We Climb."
C. A. Bray, then president of the Home Savings Bank of Greensboro, North Carolina, is named treasurer of PMI.
June 1909
Mary Grinnell sends $200.00 to Charlotte Hawkins for the PMI building fund.
July 27, 1909
Virginia Randolph, Harmon Award winner of Henrico County, Virginia, introduces the School Improvement League at Sedalia.
Charlotte Hawkins meets Edward S. Brown, a graduate of Harvard University, and falls in love.
June 12, 1911
Charlotte and Edward Brown are married. (Charlotte is 29 years of age.)
PMI begins construction of a barn to house its farm equipment.
PMI graduates number about 500 men and women. The assets of the Institute are valued at $35,000.
Campus of PMI, ca. 1915

The campus of Palmer Memorial Institute, ca. 1915. The large structure in the center is Memorial Hall. To the left is the Domestic Science Cottage, and to the right is Grew Hall (a dormitory), followed by the Industrial Building.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown becomes the North Carolina Federation's second president. She remains in this office until 1936.

The PMI campus contains four buildings:

  1. Memorial Hall (Administration building),
  2. Grinnell Cottage (Home Economics building),
  3. Grew Hall (Dormitory), and
  4. the Industrial Building, which offers workshops, manual training, agricultural training, a YMCA, and a reading room for boys.
The Julius Rosenwald Foundation provides PMI with a five-year warranty fund of $15,000.
Edward Sumner Brown and Charlotte Hawkins Brown separate and divorce after five years of marriage. (In 1912, Edward Brown leaves to teach in South Carolina).
Galen Luther Stone, a wealthy white philanthropist, becomes interested in PMI through the fundraising efforts of Mrs. Brown. (The Stone family will become PMI's greatest supporters).
December 31, 1917
A fire in the Industrial and Student Commissary Buildings causes total destruction. (This is the first of many disastrous fires that will plague PMI).
E. P. Wharton, a Greensboro banker, accepts chairmanship of PMI's Board of Trustees.
Charlotte Hawkins Brown publishes her first book with the Pilgrim Press: Mammy: An Appeal to the Heart of the South.
April 9, 1922
The first brick building on the PMI campus is completed, and dedicated as the Alice Freeman Palmer Building. Construction costs weigh in at $150,000.
Memorial Hall (PMI's first building) is destroyed by fire.
Ms. Brown applies to the American Missionary Association (AMA) for financial help.
PMI is accredited with grades seven through 11. The first accredited high school class graduates.
Grew Hall (the Girls' Dormitory) is destroyed by fire.
Dr. John Dewey Hawkins, a cousin of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, graduates from PMI.
Galen Stone offers $75,000 in matching funds to PMI's building fund.
Operation of PMI is taken over by the AMA.
Deaths of Galen L. Stone and Charles W. Eliot (PMI's most prominent supporters).
Charlotte Hawkins Brown is one of seven educators honored in the Hall of Fame at the Sesqui-Centennial celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is also honored in the Educational Hall of Fame of North Carolina.
Charlotte Hawkins Brown is listed in Who's Who in Colored America.
Ms. Brown travels to Europe, where she is impressed by the importance of culture in the European schools.
Ms. Brown attends Wellesley College, in Massachusetts, where she receives a Bachelor of Arts degree.
PMI's Sedalia Singers give high-profile performances at the White House (for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt); the Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts; and the Town Hall, New York City, in 1946 (under the patronage of the late Mrs. James Delano Roosevelt, mother of the U.S. president).
The life of Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the growth of PMI are depicted in Abott's Monthly, in an article titled "An Idea that Grew into a Million."
PMI opens for the first time as a finishing school for African Americans.
When Brown came to Sedalia, only two families owned their farms. By 1930, 95 percent of the families are independent owners and farmers. Ms. Brown's organization, the Home Ownership Association, is largely responsible.
Charlotte Hawkins Brown is elected one of 150 delegates to represent the Council of Congregational Churches of America in Bournemouth, England.
Elworth E. Smith graduates from PMI. Smith came to the school with only five dollars, but graduated from PMI with the highest honors. He would remain an important part of PMI.
PMI opens a junior college department, against wishes of AMA.
The AMA begins negotiations to withdraw aid from PMI, citing the reason that Charlotte Hawkins Brown has too much influence over the school's day-to-day operation.
PMI's first junior college class graduates.
The AMA withdraws its aid to PMI.
April 20, 1934
PMI observes its 33rd anniversary with the dedication of a new boys' dormitory, named in honor of Charles William Eliot—the 22nd president of Harvard University.
April 22, 1934
The Sedalia Singers concert (founded by Ms. Brown) is judged by the Greensboro Daily News as the "Most successful festival held in the history of the school."
Brown fosters a movement for urban-farm living. The movement is fashioned after the "Fruitlands" project of Amos Bronson Alcott.
Evelyn Foster Holloway's master's thesis on the history of PMI is approved by Fisk University's Department of Education. The thesis is titled "A Study of the Aims and Purposes of Palmer Memorial Institute."
Charlotte Hawkins Brown serves two terms as president of the North Carolina Teachers Association, an organization now known as the North Carolina Association of Educators.

While president of the North Carolina Federation of Negro Women's Clubs, CHB's objectives are:

  1. to upgrade educational facilities,
  2. to sponsor the cause of teachers, and
  3. to instill in the members of the teaching profession a high sense of moral obligation to create in each child a sense of racial pride.
November 25, 1936
The Sedalia Sentinel reports enrollment at PMI of 236 high school and elementary students, and 55 junior college students.
Charlotte Hawkins Brown receives honorary master's degrees from three institutions: (1) Cheyney Normal and Industrial Institute, Cheyney, Pennsylvania; (2) Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina; and (3) North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina.
March 1937
Ms. Brown calls upon the North Carolina Negro College Conference to require higher admission standards for both high schools and colleges.
Lincoln University of Pennsylvania awards Charlotte Hawkins Brown with an honorary LL.D. degree.
This is PMI's first year without public school students or funds. The county establishes the first public school for African Americans in Sedalia.
April 1938
Brown's mother (Mrs. Caroline Frances Hawkins Willis) dies after a long illness in Greensboro.
Ola Glover, Brown's closest friend, dies. Glover was educated at Dixie Hospital, Hampton Institute, Virginia, and came to PMI in 1920.
Wilberforce University of Xenia, Ohio, awards Charlotte Hawkins Brown an honorary LL.D. degree.
PMI's junior college department closes. The addition of a junior college had placed a financial burden on the school.
A study by Dr. Charles U. DeBerry clearly indicates that PMI has been an "ameliorating force in Sedalia."
March 10, 1940
Charlotte Hawkins Brown speaks on CBS Radio's Wings Over Jordan program.
May 1940
Miss Cecil R. Jenkins describes PMI in the Teachers Record. The article is titled "Away from the Beaten Path: How One School Dares to Educate."
June 1940
Charlotte Hawkins Brown travels 2,000 miles to deliver nearly a score of commencement addresses.
Canary Cottage

Canary Cottage: Charlotte Hawkins Brown stands in front of her home on the PMI campus. The house was built around 1927.

Christopher Publishing House of Boston, Massachusetts publishes Brown's The Correct Thing to Do, to Say, and to Wear.
Brown gives series of lectures at Tuskegee Institute. Her topics include "Character and the Social Graces," "The Correct Thing," and "The Art of Living Up to One's Best."
Brown appears before the North Carolina Legislature to ask for money to support the struggling Efland Home for Wayward Girls.
Brown earns the title "The First Lady of Social Graces," as a result of her many appearances on the subject of manners.
November 12, 1944
Governor Melvin Broughton and Charlotte Hawkins Brown speak at the formal opening of the State Training School for Girls.
Howard University, Washington, D.C., awards Charlotte Hawkins Brown with an honorary Ph.D. degree.
Dr. Brown is elected to membership in the Mark Twain Society, and receives the Mark Twain Award for her book, The Correct Thing to Do, to Say, and to Wear.
The Library at the State Training School for Negro Girls is named for Dr. Brown. Mae D. Holmes, a noted African American educator, is the superintendent.
July 1947
The Girls Training School moves to Kinston, North Carolina, where it becomes known as "Dobbs Farm," and then the Dobbs School for Girls.
The dining hall at Dobbs School is named in honor of Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown is honored with an award for promoting racial understanding by the Council of Fair Play.
Dr. Brown begins the organization of a girls' and young adults' division of the Federation of Negro Women's Clubs.
February 8, 1950
While female PMI students are in Greensboro, North Carolina, viewing the motion picture Pinky, a devastating fire guts Galen Stone Hall (the girls' dormitory).
March 21, 1950
A letter to the editor of the Greensboro Daily News by Dr. John A. Redhead, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, states: "I like the way Palmer brings together people from North and South to serve in clearer understanding the needs of Negroes. I like the spirit of the school and the quality of its work."
Students at PMI produce more than 700 bushels of corn, 52,000 pounds of lespedeza, and sweet potatoes, at the rate of 200 bushels per acre.
The June issue of Cambridge Review quotes Dr. Brown's remarks to Headmaster Downy as being appreciative of the honor of being chosen as guest speaker, representing the class of 1900. Dr. Brown is also a guest speaker to the class of 1950 at the English and Latin School of Cambridge, Massachusetts (where she herself had attended high school).
September 1950
Stone Hall has been completely renovated and refurbished.
October 5, 1952
Dr. Brown relinquishes her responsibilities as president of PMI.
October 5, 1952
Wilhelmina Crosson of Boston, Massachusetts, becomes the second president of PMI. Crosson is hand-picked by Dr. Brown to replace her as president.
The Negro Braille Magazine begins its first publication under the editorship of Lyda Moore Merrick of Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Brown is one of the magazine's founders.
June 10, 1956
The first Charlotte Hawkins Brown Day is observed at Sedalia.
Dr. Brown is made honorary president of the North Carolina Federation of Negro Women's Clubs.
Dr. Brown establishes a scholarship fund for college students, a fund which will remain in operation until 1971.
The prestigious Tuskegee Institute of Alabama awards Dr. Brown with an honorary Ph.D. in Literature.
Dr. Brown establishes a Girl's Club to support the North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs.
Sixty-four percent of all PMI graduates are pursuing undergraduate degrees, and 83 percent of all PMI graduates hold graduate or professional degrees.
The scholarship fund of the Federation has assisted 31 young women in pursuing their college educations.
January 11, 1961
Charlotte Hawkins Brown dies while at L. Richardson Memorial Hospital, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Tom M'Boya (minister of Justice of Kenya) offers Wilhelmina Crosson a trip to Kenya, West Africa, for the purpose of establishing a school similar to PMI in Nairobi.
Reverend J. T. Douglas, pastor of Saint James Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, succeeds attorney Richard Wharton as Chairman of the Board at PMI. Mr. Wharton had served as chairman for 40 years (1924-1964).
The "Upward Bound" summer project funded by the United States Government accommodates 120 students at PMI.
Wilhelmina Crosson is successful in raising $530,000 from Babcock-Reynolds Foundation, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The funds are used to build Stouffer Hall (the Science Building) and Reynolds Hall (the new boys' dormitory) on the PMI campus.
Crosson resigns as president of PMI.
Harold E. Bragg, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, becomes PMI's third president.
An alumni survey is conducted to determine what PMI graduates are doing, and where. The study shows that since 1958, 90 percent of PMI graduates have gone on to receive advanced degrees.
Under Mrs. Merrick's authorship, the Negro Braille Magazine continues publication as a quarterly until December 1968. The publication is distributed in America, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
June 12-14, 1969
At the 60th anniversary of the "Federation" held in Salisbury, North Carolina, the work of the North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs is reviewed in the souvenir bulletin, which honors the accomplishments of Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.
There are approximately 100 Federation Clubs in North Carolina.
January 1970
Harold Bragg issues a call for financial assistance for PMI in the Greensboro Daily News, then resigns as president of the school.
Charles W. Bundrige

Charles W. Bundrige, Final President of PMI.

August 29, 1970
Charles W. Bundrige announces the opening of PMI with 150 students.
Fall 1970
Charles Bundrige is named acting president of PMI.
Wilhelmina Crosson, former president of PMI, is presented the Dolly Madison Award for "her appreciation of humanity," by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.
February 15, 1971
The Alice Freeman Palmer Building, pride of the PMI campus, is destroyed by fire.
February 15, 1971
Classes resume as usual at PMI, despite the loss of the Alice Freeman Palmer Building.
Crosson gives a formal address on Founder's Day to friends of PMI, soliciting funds to keep the school open.
Fall 1971
Although financially strapped and in danger of folding, PMI resumes classes.
November 1971
PMI's board of trustees announces that the school will close, and that campus property will be sold to Bennett College of Greensboro, North Carolina.
A graduate of the Dobbs School, organized by Dr. Brown, graduates from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Eleven years after the death of Dr. Brown, citizens of Sedalia, both black and white, gather together to discuss the future of the PMI grounds.
PMI campus property is now under the ownership of the American Muslim Mission (AMM).
June 1987
The State of North Carolina purchases 40.05 acres of PMI property for development as the state's first historic site commemorating the contributions of African Americans to its history.
November 7, 1987
North Carolina opens the former Palmer Memorial Institute to the public as a memorial to African American education and women's history in North Carolina. It is the first site of its kind in North Carolina to honor an African American—female or otherwise.
April 22, 1988
The North Carolina Department of Transportation dedicates a 5.2-mile stretch of U.S. 70 as the "Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum Highway."

Adapted from: "Important Dates in the Life of Dr. Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins Brown and the Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute," by Charles W. Wadelington. Unpublished article, North Carolina Office of Archives & History (Summer 1984). Revised 1997.

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