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About Charlotte "Lottie" Hawkins
Charlotte Hawkins (1883-1961), born in Henderson, North Carolina, was a northern-educated granddaughter of former slaves. She returned to her home state as a teacher in 1901, and the following year established the Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute at Sedalia, near Greensboro. The African American school evolved from an agricultural and manual training facility to a fully accredited, nationally recognized preparatory school. More than 1,000 students graduated during Brown's 50-year presidency. She died in 1961. Ten years and three administrations later the school closed its doors.
In 1983, State Senator William (Bill) Martin secured passage of a special bill in the General Assembly which allowed for planning by Archives and History of the state's first African American state historic site. This site would be a memorial to Dr. Brown. In 1984 the legislature approved an additional $67,000 to continue the study. Shortly after state planning and research began, citizens organized the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Historical Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit society headed by Gibbs and later by Dr. Harold Webb.
The foundation and others convinced the legislators to appropriate $400,000 for land acquisition and initial restoration of the Palmer campus. After lengthy negotiations, Archives and History purchased from the American Muslim Mission 40 acres containing the heart of the campus. The site is a memorial to Charlotte Hawkins Brown and will link her work at Palmer to the larger themes of African American education and women's history in North Carolina, the South, and the United States as a whole.
Charlotte Hawkins Brown (June 11, 1883 - January 11, 1961) was an American educator and academic.
Born Lottie Hawkins in Henderson, North Carolina, she moved north with her family in the late 1880s to settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was an exceptional student in a very white world, and during her senior year of high school, Alice Freeman Palmer, a former Wellesley College president, provided financial support to enable her to further her education at the State Normal School in Salem.
In 1901 Charlotte Hawkins accepted a teaching position in a one-room school in the rural community of Sedalia, North Carolina. In 1911 she married fellow teacher Edward S. Brown, but the marriage ended in 1915.
Her dedication to educating young African Americans led to the tiny school evolving to become an accredited school and junior college, renamed the Palmer Memorial Institute in honor of her benefactor. In 1915, the prominent Boston financier and philanthropist Galen L. Stone learned of her work and became the Institute's most important benefactor.
Charlotte Hawkins Brown devoted her life to the improvement of the African-American community's social standing and was active in the National Council of Negro Women. In the 1920's she opposed the Jim Crow laws that imposed racial segregation, thereby compromising the rights of African Americans in many areas, including education and voting. Among her numerous institutional efforts, she served on the national board of the Young Women's Christian Association, the first black woman to do so.
In 1952 Brown retired as president of Palmer Memorial Institute. She died at Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1961 from heart problems, aged 77.