This week's Fact Friday comes to you from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, and features various images from Charlotte's rich black history.
After the Civil War, many former slaves prospered. They built fine homes, like this two-story Four Square style house at 414 North Myers St. in First Ward. It was the home of Samuel and Anderson McKnight, who had been born into slavery. This progression was remarkable, considering 40% of the population was enslaved on the eve of the Civil War.
William C. Smith, Founder of the Charlotte Messenger
Did you know that Charlotte had an African American newspaper in the 1800's? Yep! Wiliam C. Smith was a prominent member of the Charlotte community and on June 17, 1882 published first edition of the Charlotte Messenger and it appears to have run at least through January of 1889. According to the Library of Congress' website, archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library also has some on microfilm.
Black men and women owned and operated their own businesses. This picture was made about 1910 in front of the Queen City Drug Store on E. Second St. in Brooklyn. Almost all of Brooklyn or Second Ward was demolished by the City's Urban Renewal program in the 1960's and 1970's.
Mrs. Olivia Siglar standing in front of her home at 222 N. Myers St. The house was later destroyed by the City's Urban Renewal program for First Ward. It is important to note the loss of black wealth that was tied to this program due not only to the migrations that were directly caused by it, but also policies subsequently implemented, such as 'redlining.' Both urban renewal and 'redlining', which is now federally prohibited, were both federal policies that were implemented nationally and contributed to the 17-1 wealth disparity between whites and blacks, respectively, today.
This photograph shows the student body of Rockwell Rosenwald School in Derita prior to 1935, when a tornado demolished the upper story. Mrs. Elizabeth Weinstein loaned the photograph to the Historic Landmarks Commission.
From 1917 to 1932, Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald donated millions of dollars to build schools for black children throughout the rural South. The project was a product of Rosenwald's partnership with African American leader, educator, and philanthropist, Booker T. Washington, who was president of Tuskegee Institute. At the behest of Washington, Rosenthald gave half the money needed and required that the black and white community work to raise the other half. Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., helped build more than 5,000 schools in 15 states. By 1928, nearly one-in-five rural Southern schools was a Rosenwald school and one-third of the South’s rural black school children and teachers were served by Rosenwald Schools. 813 of the schools were in North Carolina. Twenty-four Rosenwald schools were built in Mecklenburg County according to a searchable database established by Fisk University.
To learn more about the Rosenwald Schools and their impact, click here to check out some of our previous Fact Friday posts.
Until next week!
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, "Images of Black History."
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“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin