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.
Shown here in his law office, Julius Chambers won national recognition as the lead attorney for Darius and Vera Swann in their lawsuit seeking a desegregated education for their son, James. Chambers' 1969 victory in the case led to the landmark 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandated busing to racially balance public schools. As a result of the Swann case and other civil rights activities throughout his career, Chambers endured the bombing of his house and car, the burning of his father's business, and an arsonist's destruction of his law office. Chambers later left Charlotte to become director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The last homecoming queen and the last student body president contemplate the site where Second Ward High School stood before it was closed in 1969 and demolished under urban renewal. Graduates Celesta Shropshire and William McCullough married. Behind them is the headquarters of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
In 1965, Fred Alexander became the first black member of Charlotte City Council elected since Reconstruction. Alexander did much to end municipal practices that promoted segregation, and received national attention for his efforts to remove the fence separating black Pinewood Cemetery from white Elmwood Cemetery. Here, he oversees the removal of the fence that perpetuated segregation, even in death.
Harvey Gantt made a name as a civil rights pioneer when in 1963 he became the first black student to gain admission to Clemson University. He then established an architecture practice in Charlotte, won national acclaim for his work, and served on the Charlotte City Council. This photograph shows Gantt celebrating a different accomplishment: in 1983 he was elected as the first African-American mayor of Charlotte. Gantt's victory was a modern-day reminder of the many civic contributions that black citizens have made and continue to make to Charlotte throughout its history.
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