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Palmer Memorial Institute Opens Photographic Exhibition

SEDALIA, NC.- The Palmer Memorial Institute, a traveling exhibition of documentary photographs and audio from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, will open at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia, North Carolina, on Sunday, March 13, with a reception from 1 to 5 p.m. The exhibit will run through April 30, 2005.

The Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum is located on the site of the former Palmer Memorial Institute, an African American preparatory school attended by more than 1,000 students from 1902 until it closed in 1971. The exhibition includes black-and-white photographs of student life at Palmer Memorial Institute, circa 1947, by Griff Davis, an accomplished African American photojournalist whose work appeared in the New York Times, Atlanta Daily World, Ebony, Time, Fortune, Negro Digest, and Der Spiegel. Davis's work visually depicts an often-neglected piece of American history--that of middle- and upper-middle-class African Americans.

The exhibit also includes Davis's 1947 Ebony magazine spread on PMI, text panels, and an audio documentary including interviews with Palmer Memorial Institute graduates.

The exhibition provides the opportunity for dialogue about segregation in education, black women's leadership and business development, the complexity of economic and educational standing of African Americans in the South during the Jim Crow era, and educational institutions' roles in developing strategies for economic success for African Americans, among other topics.

"We're pleased to launch CDS Traveling Exhibitions with the Palmer Memorial Institute exhibit, which helps to share an important part of North Carolina's history and current perspectives on African American education and community," says Tom Rankin, director of the Center for Documentary Studies. "The photographs and recent oral histories capturing experiences of former Palmer students, presented on the site where they once gathered for their education, encourage us to engage with documentary work in an active way to better understand life and culture today."

Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883-1961), born in Henderson, North Carolina, and raised and educated in Massachusetts, named the Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute (PMI) in Sedalia, near Greensboro, after her mentor and benefactor, the second woman president of Wellesley College. Brown's reputation grew nationally as she raised funds to expand campus facilities and worked to strengthen PMI's artistic and scholarly offerings, and through her efforts, the school evolved from an agricultural and manual training facility to a fully accredited, nationally recognized African American preparatory school. In 1987 the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum opened on the PMI grounds, North Carolina's first African American state historic site.

An oral history workshop will be held in conjunction with the exhibition on Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. until noon at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum. Participants will learn the basics of conducting an oral history interview, discuss historical and social issues involved in interviewing, and get an overview of sound quality considerations, ethics of documentary practice, and tips for preservation.

The oral history workshop will be led by Michelle McCullers Segbefia, a professional oral historian with familial ties to the Palmer Memorial Institute. Segbefia, who regularly teaches continuing studies courses on oral history at the Center for Documentary Studies, co-directs In Our Hands, an organization that uses oral history, creativity, and other experiential tools to connect individuals and communities. Liz Lindsey, exhibitions coordinator at the Center for Documentary Studies, will also present information about technology used for interviewing, about resources that are free to the public on the Center for Documentary StudiesWeb site, and about utilizing arts and humanities resources in North Carolina.

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