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Dive into history at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum

GIBSONVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) — If you like getaways that include an element of history, the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum tells the story of how a descendant of enslaved people built her own school and served as its leader for 50 years.

The now state historic site in Gibsonville is where the Palmer Memorial Institute operated from 1902 to 1971. It was founded by Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.

Dr. Brown was born in Henderson, North Carolina in 1883, but she was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“She was inspired to come down south, back to her home state of North Carolina, and give back to her community in the way that had kind of been poured into her,” Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum Assistant Site Manager Liz Torres Melendez said.

“She came down here to teach. The school that she was teaching at was slated to close, but that school closing would have meant the end of access to education for all of the Black students here in Eastern Guilford County in this rural area and she couldn’t accept that.”

Those circumstances inspired Dr. Brown to strategically fundraise and start the Palmer Memorial Institute – named in honor of her mentor Alice Freeman Palmer.

Guided tours are available which will allow visitors to experience what student life was like and to get a glimpse of Dr. Brown’s various contributions as an educator, civil rights activist, and renowned public speaker.

Dr. Brown’s home, which is also on the site, explains her connection to musician Nat King Cole.

Other famous visitors to the Palmer campus include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.

Dr. Brown showed the world that making certain opportunities accessible to Black students was possible.

The hope now is that people are encouraged by the history of Black education in North Carolina.

“We hope that visitors come here to learn about that system and take pride in that system and leave inspired and leave feeling good about our history, and our state, and our future,” Melendez said.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9am-5pm.

You can find more information on its website.

Staff will welcome Palmer graduates back to campus for an alumni reunion in August.

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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