The Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute: The School for Upper Class African-Americans

Written by Jae Jones

It is so easy to drive by buildings each day, never stopping to think that the buildings in your rearview mirror just might be a big part of African-American history.  One historical site in North Carolina that has been overlooked and not talked about a lot is The Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute. The Institute was founded in Sedalia, North Carolina by . Dr. Brown was born in Henderson, North Carolina and was educated in the north. She was also the granddaughter of former slaves. Brown later returned to North Carolina in 1901 and opened The Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute in 1902.


The school was for upper class African-Americans which eventually evolved from being an agricultural and manual training facility to a fully accredited, nationally recognized preparatory school. During Brown’s 50 years as being the president over 1,000 students graduated. The college was purchased in 1980 by Bennett College, but it later sold 40 acres of the main campus and other buildings to the American Missionary Association. The college campus was in such bad shape that the American Missionary Association abandoned the project to renovate and restructure the campus into a teacher’s college.


In 1982, the widow of Nat King Cole, Maria Cole and a friend Marie Gibbs who were students at Palmer Memorial Institute, began an effort to have the school recognized as a historic site as a memorial to . With the help of Bill Martin, the senator for North Carolina at that time, a special bill was passed in 1983 in the General Assembly to make the site a memorial.

Today, many of the buildings on the campus have been restored and are a part of the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum. The visitors’ center is located in the Carrie M. Stone Teachers’ Cottage with exhibits about Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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