In Black America Series: Charlotte, North Carolina, authors Vermelle Diamond Ely, Grace Hoey Drain, and Amy Rogers have compiled an intriguing pictorial history, which includes images and keepsakes from both the Second Ward Alumni House Museum archive and private collections, to celebrate Charlotte's African-American citizens and the rich heritage they possess. In this week's Fact Friday, I'll share just a few.
Before the sit-in movement of the 1960s led to desegregated lunch counters in the South, often blacks could only stand and order food to take out. One early exception was McClellan's on North Tryon Street, which in the 1940s installed a separate lunch counter where blacks were allowed to sit -- in the store's basement. Mildred Feemster became the first black manager there, serving barbecue, banana splits, and strawberry shortcakes. "People were three and four deep every Saturday," she recalls.
To protest segregation, on February 1, 1960, black students took seats at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC. Charles Jones, a seminary student at Johnson C. Smith University, heard the news report and within a week had helped organize his fellow students into protests at Kress, Woolworth's, and other lunch counters such as this one in Charlotte. Although peaceful, the sit-ins were part of a chain reaction of civil rights protests, some of which turned violent, throughout the South.
As white patrons stood to vacate their seats, black students took their places at lunch counters in Charlotte as the sit-in movement continued. Organizer Charles Jones would later become one of the Freedom Riders who put their lives at risk to integrate buses in the South. Slowly, Southern cities would become more and more integrated, due to the work of dedicated activists.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
Black America Series: Charlotte, North Carolina by Vermelle Diamond Ely, Grace Hoey Drain, and Amy Rogers (2001)
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass