For many black Charlotteans, stepping onto Second Street in the 1940s and 1950s during segregation probably seemed like a little slice of freedom. At the heart of the Brooklyn neighborhood, this part of the street was the center of a black business district teeming with institutions that were owned, operated, and frequented by African-Americans. This photo (above) from the 1940s is one of the 400 block of East Second and shows a grocery store, a restaurant, and the Automatic Cafe. Farther down eh street there was an icehouse, a funeral home, a drugstore, pool halls, a women's social club, a barbershop, and a movie theater. Close by were most of the major churches in Brooklyn, and just to the south of this intersection ere the Myers Street School and Second Ward High School, where most of the African-American children in Charlotte were sent to school.
Second Street's vibrant black business community was leveled by urban renewal, and like most of Second Ward it looks very different today. The corner of the 400 block was occupied in the 1960s by the A.M.E. Zion Publishing House, which relocated from Brevard Street to print and disseminate material from the local A.M.E. Zion Church organization. Although the wounds from the past are still fresh, the African-American heritage of the area and the knowledge of what existed there in the past is finally being acknowledged. In 2007 Second Street was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and it will border the new Brooklyn Village mixed-use complex.
Currently planned as the nucleus of Charlotte's Second Ward redevelopment plan, Brooklyn Village will be part of the public-private land swap deal with Third Ward involving BB&T Ballpark and Romare Bearden Park, named after the internationally known
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Information taken from:
Charlotte Then and Now, Brandon Lunsford, 2013.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass