Time Line of Achievement

Important Dates in the Life of Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the 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 12 - Fifteen children, with Hawkins as their teacher, attend Bethany Institute on the first morning it is opened.



  • Spring - Bethany Institute closes. (The AMA closed all of its one-room schools in the South).
  • Summer - Miss Hawkins begins to raise money to open her own school in Sedalia, North Carolina.
  • October 10 - The Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute (PMI) opens its doors.
  • Fall - Miss Hawkins names her school after pioneering educator Alice Freeman Palmer, Charlotte's mentor and supporter while she was in Massachusetts.


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 - 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 - 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 - Mary Grinnell sends $200.00 to Charlotte Hawkins for the PMI building fund.
  • July 27 - 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.

Palmer Memorial Institute Early Campus
The campus of Palmer Memorial Institute, circa 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.


  • PMI graduates number about 500 men and women. The assets of the Institute are valued at $35,000.
  • Charlotte Hawkins Brown becomes the North Carolina Federation's second president. She remains in this office until 1936.


  • The PMI campus contains four buildings:
  • Memorial Hall (Administration building),
  • Grinnell Cottage (Home Economics building),
  • Grew Hall (Dormitory), and
  • the Industrial Building, which offers workshops, manual training, agricultural training, a YMCA, and a reading room for boys.


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).


  • December 31, 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.


  • 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.


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."


  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 - The Sedalia Sentinel reports enrollment at PMI of 236 high school and elementary students, and 55 junior college students.


  • March - 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 - 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."
    Canary Cottage
     Canary Cottage, constructed circa 1927


  • March 10 - Charlotte Hawkins Brown speaks on CBS Radio's Wings Over Jordan program.
  • May - 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 - Charlotte Hawkins Brown travels 2,000 miles to deliver nearly a score of commencement addresses.


  • 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - Stone Hall has been completely renovated and refurbished.


  • October 5 - Dr. Brown relinquishes her responsibilities as president of PMI.
  • October 5 - 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 - 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.

Charles Bundridge
Charles W. Bundrige, Final President
  of Palmer Memorial Institute


  • January - Harold Bragg issues a call for financial assistance for PMI in the Greensboro Daily News, then resigns as president of the school.
  • August 29 - Charles W. Bundrige announces the opening of PMI with 150 students.
  • Fall - 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 - The Alice Freeman Palmer Building, pride of the PMI campus, is destroyed by fire.
  • February 15 - 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 - Although financially strapped and in danger of folding, PMI resumes classes.
  • November - 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 - 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 - 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.