Black History Month: Honoring Charlotte Hawkins Brown

In 1902, Charlotte Hawkins Brown built a preparatory school near Greensboro, NC which helped transform “the lives of more than 2,000 African American students.”

There’s a photo circulating on Facebook of a young black woman that is accompanied by a long caption comparing her to Rosa Parks.

It is true that a Civil War-era California woman insisted she had the right to ride San Francisco street cars, thus generating a comparison with Rosa Parks (whose protest was about 100 years later).

But she’s not the woman in that photograph.

The woman in that Facebook photograph is Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.

She is wearing her wedding dress, circa 1912 (source, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources). She was the granddaughter of slaves.

In 1902 she built a preparatory school near Greensboro, NC – the Palmer Memorial Institute – which helped transform “the lives of more than 2,000 African American students.”

Established in a converted blacksmith’s shop, the school was named in honor of Alice Freeman Palmer, Charlotte’s mentor and benefactor. Mrs. Palmer also was the second woman president of Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

She set up a board of trustees composed entirely of African-Americans. Her school was “fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools at a time when few African American high schools enjoyed this recognition.” In addition, it was one of the few in North Carolina to offer college preparatory courses in a junior and senior high school setting.

Dr. Brown served as president for 50 years. She taught her students that they could be “educationally efficient, religiously sincere and culturally secure.”

Today that school is a museum and state historic site.



PSA: stop and think before sharing

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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