Last updated: 11/16/2011
Gibsonville, North Carolina
Street Address
6136 Burlington Rd
Gibsonville, NC 27349
Mailing Address
P.O. Box B
Sedalia, NC 27342
phone: 336-449-4846
Monday - Saturday9 AM - 5 PM
Closed Sundays and most major state holidays.
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Frachele Scott, Museum Contact

The Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum commemorates the work of Dr. Brown and exposes visitors to life in the 1900s. The Museum provides an opportunity to learn about North Carolina's history with an emphasis on the education of African Americans. Visitors explore the benefits and challenges associated with education during the times of segregation. Most importantly, the Museum depicts the evolution of the school Dr. Brown founded, Palmer Memorial Institute, from an agriculturally-based education to one of academic rigor.

Palmer was the product of Dr. Brown's love, creativity, and vigorous leadership. The Institute was fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools at a time when few African American high schools enjoyed this recognition. During her 50-year presidency, over a thousand students graduated. They gained not only a diploma but also a firm idea of their own individual worth. Dr. Brown taught them well—they would be "educationally efficient, religiously sincere, and culturally secure."

As the fame of the school spread, Dr. Brown became nationally known as an educator, lecturer, civil rights activist, author, and cultural leader. She received several honorary degrees. Her many associates included Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Eleanor Roosevelt, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a woman proud of herself and her people. She deeply believed in the American principles of freedom and justice for all human beings and expressed herself eloquently. She succeeded in showing for all the world to see what one young African American woman could do. Dr. Brown died in 1961. Ten years and three administrations later Palmer closed its doors.

The nonprofit Charlotte Hawkins Brown Historical Foundation works cooperatively with the state and other interested individuals and organizations to promote scholarship, research, and the wider preservation and appreciation of North Carolina's African American heritage.


The Division of State Historic Sites and Properties preserves, operates, and interprets significant historic sites, enabling visitors to explore North Carolina’s rich and diverse heritage in an engaging, relevant manner.


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 late 1982 Mrs. Maria Cole, a niece of Dr. Brown's, visited friend and schoolmate Marie Gibbs of Greensboro. Together they returned to the campus where both had been students and expressed a joint desire for recognition of Brown's social and educational contributions. Immediately Gibbs and others began sponsoring meetings of Palmer alumni and enlisting support. They met with North Carolina's Division of Archives and History to explore ideas.

In November 1987, the memorial officially opened as a state historic site. By that time the Carrie M. Stone Teachers' Cottage had been restored as a visitor center featuring exhibits and an audiovisual program. By early 1994, the Historic Sites Section had completed exhaustive, comprehensive research on Brown and the Palmer Institute, and restored or stabilized several other structures. Canary Cottage (Brown's home) was restored and a furnishings plan was prepared. The building awaited funds (to be raised by the foundation) to implement the plan and create a house museum. Stabilization work was completed on the exterior of Kimball Hall. Reynolds Hall was in use as an artifact storage area for many historic sites, although negotiations were underway with North Carolina A & T State University to convert it to a training center. The section established offices at the site for its exhibits designer and assistant curator of collections, in addition to the site's own permanent staff.

The Palmer campus contains about a dozen twentieth-century buildings, ranging from houses to dormitories built between the 1920s and 1960s. Archaeological remains of the Alice Freeman Palmer Building, the center of the campus, also survive. Special events at the site include commemoration of African American History Month, Brown's birthday, a regional history bowl, an African American Heritage Festival, and a Christmas Open House.


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