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Former Black prep school dormitories in NC make endangered historic sites list

Galen Stone Hall
Galen Stone Hall

Parts of a former African American prep school in North Carolina have made the 2022 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the U.S.

Three dormitories at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum/Palmer Memorial Institute in eastern Guilford County have been deemed unsafe to enter because of severe storm damage and disuse over the years, according to the N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources.

The buildings were used to house students on the campus of the Palmer Memorial Institute which, at its height, encompassed more than 300 acres and 14 buildings.

The institute was founded in the Sedalia community in 1902 by Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown. It initially was an agricultural and manual training facility for African Americans and evolved into a fully accredited, nationally recognized preparatory school.

Brown, the granddaughter of slaves, was born in Henderson in 1883 and was educated in the north. She returned to North Carolina as a teacher in 1901. More than 1,000 students graduated from the school during Brown's 50-year presidency which ended with her death in 1961. Ten years later, the institute closed.

“Palmer Memorial Institute is a powerful testament to African American self-determination and the importance of education as a powerful tool for social and economic transformation,” said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the organization that compiles the annual list.

It is hoped that inclusion on the list will help bring attention to the importance of this historic site and help further revitalization efforts.

“Restoring these neglected buildings to usefulness will help to further position the museum as an anchor in the historically Black community of Sedalia,” said André D. Vann, president of the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Historical Foundation Inc. “This national recognition is an opportunity to revitalize Palmer Memorial Institute and reinvigorate support for this unique, special place.”

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