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A-146; M-92

Brown, Charlotte Hawkins, 1883-1961. Papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1900-1961: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: A-146; M-92
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1883-1961
Title: Papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1900-1961
Date(s): 1900-1961
Quantity: 2.84 linear feet (3+1/2 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 4 oversize folders, 2 folio+ folders, 4 reels of microfilm)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, speeches, etc., of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, educator and founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 781, 1071, 1096
The papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, educator and founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute, were given to the Schlesinger Library by her niece, Maria Cole, in July 1964 and December 1966, and by Wilhelmina M. Crosson, President Emerita, Palmer Memorial Institute, in October 1966. The microfilming of the papers was funded partly by the Friends of the Schlesinger Library and partly by the Historic Sites Section, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Processing Information:

Reprocessed: April 1984
By: Bert Hartry

Conditions Governing Access:

Access. Originals are closed; use digital images or microfilm M-92.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Charlotte Hawkins Brown is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


  • Dates and/or other information have been written on some items by a number of people. In organizing the material, the processor accepted dates added by others. All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
  • The pages of some items were numbered to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researcher. Blank pages were not numbered.
  • All reels were proofread by the processor and corrections were made where necessary.
  • Some of the material in the collection was difficult to film due to such problems as flimsy paper with text showing through, faded and blurred carbon copies, and creased paper. The film was carefully produced and proofread to insure that these items are as legible as possible.
  • All photographs were microfilmed with the collection. They are also available on the microfilm of the Schlesinger Library photograph collection (M-54).
  • Letters of one or more pages with either the salutation or the signature missing, as well as portions of letters, have been marked as fragments.
  • There are numerous letters with the text on the two inside pages written in two different directions, and some letters that have the final lines of text and the signature on page one. In these cases letters were microfilmed as they appear; pages were not turned and first pages were not refilmed.
  • Charlotte Hawkins Brown sometimes used the verso of letterhead or of printed pages for carbon copies and some print may show through. These letterhead/printed sides were microfilmed only if they contained text.
  • Enclosures were microfilmed after letters.
  • For a list of the contents of A-146, see the inventory that follows. When requesting portions of the collection on microfilm, please use the microfilm number (M-92) and the reel number.
  • Folders 1-29: M-92, Reel 1
  • Folders 30-41: M-92, Reel 2
  • Folders 42-55: M-92, Reel 3
  • Folder #56-76: M-92, Reel 4
  • Preferred Citation:

    Charlotte Hawkins Brown Papers, 1900-1961; item description, dates. A-146, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


    Charlotte Hawkins Brown (June 11, 1883-January 11, 1961) was born in Henderson, North Carolina, the daughter of Caroline Frances Hawkins and Edmund H. Hight. The family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late 1880's, where Brown attended public schools. During her senior year of high school Alice Freeman Palmer, formerly president of Wellesley College, encouraged her to attend the State Normal School at Salem and provided financial support. In 1901 Brown accepted a job as teacher in a one-room school in rural Sedalia, North Carolina. It was this school that Brown transformed, with the help of many contributors, into an accredited school and junior college and renamed Palmer Memorial Institute. In 1911 Brown married Edward S. Brown, also a teacher; they had no children and were later separated. Brown became a nationally recognized educator and received honorary doctorates from Howard, Tuskegee and other universities. She was active in the National Council of Negro Women, the North Carolina Teachers Association, and many other organizations, and she was the first black woman to serve on the national board of the Young Women's Christian Association. She lectured and wrote about Negro women, education, and race relations. Brown remained president of Palmer Memorial Institute until 1952. She died of heart failure in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1961.
    For additional biographical information, see #1-29 in this collection, and the article about Charlotte Hawkins Brown in Notable American Women (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), which includes a list of additional sources.


    Arranged in three series:


    This collection provides information about Charlotte Hawkins Brown's life and activities, about Palmer Memorial Institute, and particularly about Brown's continuing struggle to enlarge the school, the financial problems she encountered, and her constant fund-raising efforts.
    Series I, Personal and biographical, contains biographical material by Charlotte Hawkins Brown and by others, including an incomplete draft of an unpublished biography of Brown by Ceci Jenkins. There are also speeches (some are excerpts and reports by others) and writings by Brown, certificates, awards and honorary degrees received by Brown, and photographs of her and others. Of her speeches Brown said, "For the most part [they]... are along social lines of uplift and general educational practice" ("The Quest of Culture," 1929, in #14). The writings and speeches included here are mainly about race relations and Negro women and were delivered on such occasions as meetings, anniversaries, memorial services, graduations, and on receiving honors. The series begins with the biographical papers, followed by Brown's speeches and writings, her awards and honors, and photographs.
    Series II, Correspondence, contains mainly letters to and from Brown (most Brown letters are typescript carbon copies). Many of those to Brown are letters of congratulation. Much of the correspondence deals with Palmer Memorial Institute: fund-raising, expansion, and events. Dated correspondence (see "Microfilm of Collection") is arranged chronologically. No attempt was made to reconstruct the chronology of the undated letters, which follow the dated correspondence and are arranged in two alphabetical groups: from Brown and to Brown. There is one folder of letters from others to others. An Index of Correspondents follows the inventory. Researchers should refer to this index, as there is also correspondence in the other series, particularly Series III.
    Series III, Palmer Memorial Institute, is divided into two sections: Administration and Students, each arranged chronologically. The first contains copies of the charter (1907) and the constitution and by-laws (1908), various Brown reports to the Board of Trustees, reports by the staff to Brown, some financial and fund-raising records, brochures, press releases, programs, scrapbooks and photographs. The second section includes documents about student activities, publications, and essays about Palmer Memorial Institute. Such items as the scrapbooks, photographs, and clippings document both the administration of Palmer Memorial Institute and its students.

    Container list


    Researchers should refer to this index because there is correspondence not only in Series II, but also in Series I and III.
    This index includes the names of all writers and recipients. There is one exception: little known persons writing for organizations and as secretaries to individuals are not indexed (unlike the organizations and the employers that are indexed). Information about individuals and subjects is also not indexed.
    Key: No symbol = Writer; * = Writer and Recipient; + = Recipient
    The numbers refer to folders.

    Container List

    Additional Index Terms

    African American women
    African Americans
    African Americans--Education
    LinkCongrès International des Femmes (1945 : Paris)
    Education--North Carolina
    Educational fund raising
    North Carolina--Social conditions
    Race relations
    United States--Race relations
    Women--Southern states
    American Missionary Association
    Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906
    Baldwin, Maria Louise, 1856-1922
    Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955
    Bright, J. S.
    Brooks, Louise Winsor
    Brown, Charlotte Hawkins, 1883-1961
    Burroughs, Nannie H., 1879-1961
    Cogswell, Theodora Bates
    Comfelt, Una S.
    Comstock, Ada Louise, 1876-1973
    Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1979
    Deering, Grace L.
    De Priest, Oscar, 1871-1951
    Dillard, J. H. (James Hardy), 1856-1940
    Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
    Ehringhaus, John Christopher Blucher, 1882-1949
    Eliot, Charles William, 1834-1926
    Eliot, Samuel A. (Samuel Atkins), 1862-1950
    Ely, Joseph Buell, 1881-1956
    Gallagher, Buell G. (Buell Gordon), 1904-1978
    Graham, Frank Porter, 1886-1972
    Grinnell, Mary R.
    Guthrie, Frances A.
    Harlow, S. Ralph (Samuel Ralph), 1885-1972
    Hayes, Roland W., 1887-1977
    Heathfield, Laura I.
    Hobgood, Frank P., 1872-1950
    Hoey, Clyde Roark, 1877-1954
    Hope, John, 1868-1936
    Horton, Mildred McAfee, 1900-1994
    Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967
    Hutchins, William J., 1871-1958
    Jenkins, Ceci R.
    Johnson, James Weldon, 1871-1938
    Jones, David Dallas, 1887-1956
    Kimball, Helen F.
    Low, Seth, 1850-1916
    McIver, Lula V. Martin
    Macmahons, Elizabeth W.
    Marks, Jeannette Augustus, 1875-1964
    Miller, Kelly, 1863-1939
    National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs
    Ovington, Mary White, 1865-1951
    Palmer family
    Palmer Memorial Institute
    Peabody, George Foster, 1852-1938
    Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
    Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
    Roosevelt, Sara Delano, 1854-1941
    Rosenwald, Julius, 1862-1932
    Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972
    Slowe, Lucy Diggs, 1885-1937
    Spaulding, C. C. (Charles Clinton), 1874-1952
    Stone, Carrie Morton
    Stone, Galen Luther, 1862-1926
    Talbert, Mary Burnette, 1866-1923
    Vickery, Annie L.
    Walker, Madame C.J., 1867-1919
    Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915
    Washington, Margaret James Murray, 1865-1925
    Wharton, Edward P.
    Woolley, Mary Emma, 1863-1947
    Work, Monroe Nathan, 1866-1945