On Nov. 22, 1965, the homes of four Charlotte civil rights leaders, Kelly Alexander Sr., Julius Chambers, Fred Alexander and Reginald Hawkings, were bombed. In 1957, Charlotte schools were integrated for the first time. In 1997, Capacchione v CMS ended the federally-ruled busing system for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Over 6,500 people from across the city gathered to learn and discuss this shameful aspect of Charlotte’s past. In the wake of the city’s 250th anniversary, the second annual “On The Table” discussions were held at dozens of locations, including Cone University Center. Attendees were tasked with discussing moments they had experienced or witnessed segregation. The responses reflected the diversity in the room; one faculty member described her experience of growing up Black in urban New York and another described working in Uptown at the dawn of the violent protests following the death of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016.
The on-campus event was hosted by the Community Relations Department. Director Avery Acey believes that the dialogue makes the event so important to both the city and the University. “The topic of segregation is a hard one to talk about,” said Acey. “[The discussions] really bring people together.
The “On The Table CLT” events started in Charlotte in 2017, organized by the Foundation for the Carolinas and Community Building Initiative along with the Knight Foundation. The program originated in Chicago, and after the success there, Charlotte became one of ten cities across the United States to establish a program of their own.
Last year’s Charlotte event tackled the issue of social capital. The theme of this year, diversity and segregation, was a reaction to the Keith Lamont Scott shooting. Participants were provided with a timeline of Charlotte’s history and discussed how the city has changed and which changes are positive. Many expressed pride in being apart of Charlotte’s diverse population and others expressed concerns for the future of business practices and housing priorities.
Wednesday’s events were just a small example of Charlotte’s imperative to reckon with its past, but the discussion was meaningful for all involved.