Charlotte Hawkins Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute: What One Young African American Woman Could Do

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Charlotte Hawkins Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute: What One Young African American Woman Could Do. By Charles W. Wadelington and Richard F. Knapp. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, c. 1999. Pp. xvi, 303. Paper, $16.95, ISBN 0-8078-4794-1; cloth, $39.95, ISBN 0-8078-2514-X.)

Mary McLeod Bethune and Nannie Helen Burroughs are recognized as pioneers in twentieth-century African American education. Both women built their institutions, Bethune-Cookman College in Florida and the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C., respectively, from scratch and nursed them into nationally known, accredited institutions. Bethune and Burroughs, however, are only two of many African American women who made important contributions in black education. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, while less well known than Bethune and Burroughs, deserves to share the stage with them as a leader in black education. Charles W. Wadelington and Richard F. Knapp have captured the essence of Brown in this inspiring and beautifully written work.

Born in 1883 in North Carolina, Brown's family moved to Boston in 1888 to escape the South's social, economic, and racial restrictions. Young Charlotte took music lessons, learned to appreciate art, and developed speaking and leadership skills that proved invaluable to her later success. More important, she forged lifelong relationships with wealthy and influential white New Englanders. Brown began her career educating southern blacks in 1901, when she accepted a teaching position at Bethany Institute, an American Missionary Association (AMA) school in rural Guilford County, North Carolina. She arrived at Bethany Institute full of excitement only to find a dilapidated building and a world foreign to her. …