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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 17, 1979. Interview C-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Charlotte Hawkins Brown and her preparatory school in Sedalia, North Carolina

Turner briefly describes Charlotte Hawkins Brown as an important African American woman role model. As the proprietor of an accredited African American preparatory school, the Palmer Memorial Institute, in Sedalia, North Carolina, Brown was a respected figure in the twentieth century. The school, which was founded in 1902 and remained open until 1971 (ten years after Brown's death) was popular among middle-class African Americans from Durham, Turner explains.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 17, 1979. Interview C-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

But in almost every community, as I'm trying to recall, that I've gone into, there's always been two or three very active, very outstanding women, who were involved in all the movements that were around: social or educational. And I'm quite sure Mrs. Methuen influenced many of them. In this state, however, I don't think was any influential thing going there, but they were of a kind. Miss Charlotte Hawkins Brown over here at Sedalia, she was quite a woman, too, in her own right. And almost everyone of the young people, especially of the professional folks here, that type of people—nearly all of those children who left Durham probably in the sixth grade, and finished all of their high school work at Sedalia and left there and went to college.
This was a private, kind of finishing school?
Yeah, that's really what she made of it, virtually. I think I'm correct: if she was not a New Englander, she was educated in New England. And she felt that you should be given a certain amount of polish, culture, and refinement that you were not getting here. Not many places, either, for that matter. I don't think any of the kids in college today have been given any refinement.
It wasn't just Mutual children who went to her school?
No. Almost any child here, about like George Cox, that age. Any parent who had a little extra money at all could make a sacrifice to do it, as my mother and father did for me—that little dollar a month business. They tried to send their kid to Sedalia. And that was not just in Durham. All over. You could go down to Sedalia. The Cox kids went there. I don't think all of them, but Nora Mae went there. And I had occasion to go over to visit. Children would be there from all over the country. I was surprised how many different places kids came from.
Do you know anything about the curriculum?
No. The only thing I know is just from the talk of the kids, and then hearing her talk on occasion. I went up there to one or two programs, and you knew from the way she talked, and if you had contact with some of the children, you knew that she was not satisfied just to give them the A-B-C's. She wanted them to have a little more than that. And they lived by that sort of program. The things that they did there had to be done correctly, and rightly. In other words, they were taught how to eat properly, how to set a decent table, from that on out. Music, to have some appreciation of good music.