A prominent African-American businessman and civic leader, Thaddeus “Thad” Lincoln Tate made a significant contribution to the Charlotte community in the early to mid-twentieth-century.
“Thaddeus Lincoln Tate” — Bronze by Ed Dwight. Trail of History Commission. Erected 2015.
Tate moved to Charlotte in 1877. From the 1890s to the 1940s, he operated Uptown Barber Shop in the Central Hotel at Trade and Tryon Streets in Charlotte. At the time, most barbers in the white communities of the south were African American and barbers often played important roles in the African American community. Tate’s customers included prominent local civic leaders such as Governor Cameron Morrison, store owners William Henry Belk and J. B. Ivey and the neighborhood builder Edward Dilworth Latta.
Tate and his family lived in an elegant Victorian-style brick house at 504 East Seventh Street in Charlotte. Tate built the house in the 1880s in what was then an integrated neighborhood.
Friends called Tate and his wife Mary and their ten children the “dozen family.” Tate helped found the Grace A. M. E. Zion Church that was built in 1886 on South Brevard Street. The church played a notable role in the African-American community in Charlotte at the time.
Tate used his friendships with local white leaders in order to press for improvements to services for African Americans. He helped found the Brevard Street branch of the public library. Opened in 1904, this was the first free branch of the public library for African Americans in the South. Tate also helped found a branch of the YMCA for African Americans, and the Morrison Training School for African-American youths in Hoffman, North Carolina.
Tate and other African-American leaders created the Afro-American Mutual Insurance Company that operated from 1907 to 1927. The company hired African Americans and catered to people largely ignored by white-owned companies.
Together with J. T. Williams and other local African-American leaders, Tate was a director of the investment company that, in 1922, built the Mecklenburg Investment Company Building, the first office building in Charlotte for African-American businesses and professions at Third and Brevard Streets. On the first floor of the building, there was a pharmacy; on the second floor, offices for African-American doctors and lawyers; and on the third floor a meeting hall for African-American Masonic lodges.
A sign from Tate’s barber shop is preserved in the Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South.
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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass