Palmer Memorial Institute

By the early 1930s, the campus of Palmer Memorial Institute (PMI) had grown to include nearly 400 acres of land and 14 buildings valued at close to $500,000. Steam heated and wired for electricity, the buildings were the envy of the community. Most of the homes in the surrounding Sedalia community did not receive electricity until sometime in the 1940s.

The school enjoyed its heyday in the 1940s as one of the finest finishing schools available for African Americans. Palmer was recognized worldwide, attracting students from more than forty states and several foreign countries, including Liberia and the West Indies. The success of PMI also brought attention from prominent Americans. The acclaimed African American educator Mary McLeod Bethune, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt each spoke at Palmer during this period. Charlotte Hawkins Brown herself traveled extensively, and made inspirational speeches regularly.

PMI Campus

Palmer Memorial Institute. A portion of the PMI campus, as seen from the top of the Alice Freeman Palmer Building, ca. 1950. Right: Dr. Brown's home, Canary Cottage; Center: Teachers' Cottage; Left: Charles Eliot Hall (boys' dorm). Eliot Hall was named for Charles William Eliot, the twenty-second president of Harvard University.

Kimball Hall - PMI

Kimball Hall. The graduating class of 1943. The students are arrayed in PMI's "Triangle of Achievement."

Kimball Hall - PMI

Kimball Hall. The student body of Palmer Memorial Institute, ca. 1943.

Massachusetts Congregational Women's Cottage

Massachusetts Congregational Women's Cottage, 1953. Senior Girls Domestic Science Building. Pictured: Barbara Warrick, a PMI Senior in 1953.

All images © North Carolina Office of Archives & History

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