Charlotte H. Brown, brilliant educator

Charlotte H. Brown
Mon, 1883-06-11

On this date in 1883, Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins Brown was born. She was an African American civic leader and educator who founded the Palmer Institute (a prep school for African-Americans), argued against lynchings, and was in favor of interracial cooperation.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was born in Henderson, North Carolina, but the family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1888. There they operated a boarding house for Harvard students and a laundry. Around the time she graduated from Cambridge English High School, Charlotte attracted the interest and support of Alice Freeman Palmer. In 1902, Hawkins founded the Alice Freeman Palmer Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina, in honor of her mentor. Palmer Institute began as a vocational school, but its curriculum evolved until it was a strictly academic institution and was considered one of the finest preparatory schools for African-Americans in the U.S.

In addition to running the Palmer Institute, Brown fought tirelessly for African-American civil rights, lecturing in opposition to lynching and in favor of interracial cooperation. She helped to found the National Council of Negro Women, the North Carolina State Federation of Negro Women's Clubs, and the North Carolina Teachers Association. She was also on the national board of the YWCA. Brown served as the president of Palmer Institute for 50 years, before retiring in 1952. Even in retirement, however, she continued to act as the financial director of the school and was deeply involved on its board of directors until her death in 1961.

In 1983, the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Historical Foundation was incorporated. They established North Carolina's first historic site honoring either an African-American or a woman on the Palmer Institutes campus.

Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

To Become a School Principal

Person / name: 

Brown, Charlotte H.