About This Exhibit

An African American Album Vol. 2
The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

Welcome to An African American Album, Vol. 2. This is your online photograph album of the lives of African Americans in Charlotte and in Mecklenburg County from the 1940s through the 1990s. With the click of your computer mouse, you can browse through miles of memories in this beautifully created electronic album capturing the past sixty years.

To make your journey easy, you can select from four topics: Events, Places, Keepsakes and Heritage. Explore the rich history, treasured moments and dynamic people who have made a difference to this area of North Carolina.

Introduction to Exhibit
Overview of Events
Overview of Places
Overview of Keepsakes
Overview of Heritage
Project Credits


In 1992, the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County published the book An African American Album. This book, now out of print, is a photographic collection that illustrates life in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg African American community in the years before 1950.

An African American Album Vol. 2 continues the story. The content of this exhibit is based upon a CD-ROM released in 1997. By using sound, graphics, animation, video and interactivity, this Web exhibit presents a compelling chapter in the lives of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's African American community from the 1940s through the 1990s.

In the African American Album Vol. 2 online exhibit you can:

  • Attend "Daddy" Grace's last parade.
  • Explore an interactive map of the lost neighborhood of Brooklyn.
  • Listen to the city attorney announce the desegregation of Charlotte's parks and public places in 1963.
  • Take a tour of Beatties Ford Road.
  • Go to school with Dorothy Counts, Delois Huntley, and Gus and Girvaud Roberts on the very first day they desegregate Charlotte's all-white schools.
  • Tune into live TV coverage of the bombings of Charlotte's civil rights leaders' homes.
  • Cheer as West Charlotte wins the state championship.


Open the page to this section and discover each decade marking events that made history. Point your mouse over the decade you wish to explore. Your senses will be lifted into that period in time through words and pictures. Here is a highlight of what you will discover:

The 1940s - The Big Band Era and World War II have the world spellbound.
The effects of both have their impact on the African American community in Charlotte. Visit the Excelsior Club. Come learn about the college options available to black veterans. See the site of Charlotte's only hotel open to African Americans - the Hotel Alexander on McDowell Street.

The 1950s - The war has ended but unrest at home is just beginning. Visit this decade marked by the entrance of rock 'n roll and desegregation. Read about the infamous US Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which outlaws school segregation by race. Watch and listen to Dorothy Counts' emotional experiences at Harding High School.

The 1960s - During one of the most turbulent decades in the past fifty years, Charlotte's African Americans are active participants in the battle for civil rights. Urban renewal begins in earnest with the demolition of Charlotte's Ward neighborhoods. Learn about the push for desegregation in Charlotte's hotels and restaurants, as well as other public facilities. The enforcement of court-ordered school desegregation and the impact of the Swann case are predominant news.

The 1970s - This decade ushers in the conclusion of the emotionally-charged school desegregation plan in Charlotte. Watch Judge McMillan discuss the impact desegregation has had on the Charlotte community and how the Chambers family was effected by the Swann case.

The 1980s - The times they are a changin'. . . twenty years of civil rights unrest begins to subside. Harvey Gantt is elected Charlotte's first black mayor. Attorney Julius Chambers talks about the effects of civil rights. Hurricane Hugo hits Charlotte bringing a dramatic end to the decade.

The 1990s - A decade of national recognition. The Charlotte Hornets make it to the NBA playoffs and the city captures an NFL Franchise, the Panthers. Musically, the group Jodeci earns platinum recording status and John McKee's gospel recording attracts Billboard attention. Charlotte is seen as a city with a "quality of life" for all. Major corporations are attracted to relocate to the Queen City.


Through this section you will discover a world changed by urban renewal. Open this page and view a map of uptown Charlotte and several of the black neighborhoods existing before urban renewal. Visit each area to reminisce about bygone times. The impact of urban renewal, the change to Charlotte's Ward communities, the lost second city of Brooklyn and the early rise of the suburb of Cherry are captured in this unique setting.

See Charlotte's Wards - Uptown Charlotte was initially divided into Four sections (wards). Begin at the crossroads of Trade and Tryon streets to see these neighborhoods mapped out for you. Each Ward had a personality of its own.

Learn about Urban Renewal - In the 1960s, the urban renewal effort demolished almost every home, school and church in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Read about the impact of this national movement attempting to improve living conditions for people in substandard housing.

Explore Brooklyn - From the 1800s to the 1960s, Brooklyn was the center of life for the Charlotte black community. This "second city" was alive with homes, schools, churches and community life. You can tour those schools, visit Brooklyn homes, see historic places or take part in the annual "Sweet Daddy" Grace parade.

Explore Cherry - Tour Charlotte's first black suburban neighborhood. You can click on any image pictured to learn about the Cherry community. For many African Americans in Charlotte, this was the first opportunity for them to own their own home. You can also read from Price Davis' journal about his experiences in Charlotte and New York City. Discover how Davis' impression of Charlotte changes from a "racist and brutal city" to a "land of freedom."


Take a look at what dreams are made of...thumb through the pages of this album to get a glimpse of the personal side of life in the African American community. This album is divided into four Groups: Social Gatherings, Community Life, Portraits of Everyday People and the Stroud's Family Photos. Take a step back in time and relive the memories captured in these touching photographs.

Social Gatherings - In this section you can view images illustrating social life in Charlotte over the past fifty years. Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Excelsior Club through viewing pictures of the Bridgeteers Club and the Moles Club. Attend a beautiful wedding where the bridal party has been outfitted by Dorothy Flagg, noted designer/seamstress of the African American community. Meet members of the Medical Auxiliary of Charlotte's black doctors and dentists. Read about the Swank Social Club and their "let us live while we live" philosophy.

Community Life - Open this section and you will find images of African Americans at work, school, church and play. From an exuberant photo of a 1993 Charlotte Hornets victory to a stirring picture of Dr. Martin Luther King addressing a crowd at Johnson C. Smith University, you will be able to take part in events that shaped our community.

Portraits of Everyday People - You will feel like you have just walked through an art gallery or looked at someone's personal collection of special photographs. In this section you can meet and become acquainted with a variety of Charlotteans who have become famous or who have given back their share to the African American community. Some "everyday people" you will meet are: civil rights activists Kelly Alexander Sr. and Jr., educators Jacqueline Pharr and Dr. William B. McMillan, UNCC basketball coach Melvin Watkins, optometrist Dr. Paula Newsome, community leader Thomas "Pop" Sadler and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church's Rev. Clifford Jones. These are but a few of the 30 portraits you will browse in this gallery collection.

Stroud's Family Photos -There isn't a more beautiful way to get into the heart and soul of the African American community in Charlotte than to be a guest in the Stroud's family photograph album. In this section you will not only see a few pictures but also be treated to a running monologue from Daisy and Gerson Stroud as they tell the story of two families, their lives and their struggles. Simply click on a photo to hear a story. There are a total of eight vignettes to educate and entertain you.


Explore a past to be proud of when you turn the pages of the Heritage section.
You can choose to stroll down Beatties Ford Road, reawaken your spiritual self at one of Charlotte's black churches, experience the first day of desegregation or visit one of Charlotte's all-black schools. Choose to check out one or all of these sites on the Heritage tour. You will leave this section wiser and more in tune with the African American experience in Charlotte.

Visit Charlotte Churches - You can read the article "Rock of Ages" and click on any of the underlined words to see an image from the religious community of black Charlotteans. Religion in the African American culture is often referred to as the "center for the black community." From the early beginnings of the AME Zion missionaries to the ever popular Friendship Baptist Church, you can step into any of these congregations and feel the presence of God.

Experience the First Day of Desegregation - Emotionally gripping and beautifully written, you can read about Charlotte's desegregation pioneers - Dorothy Counts, Delois Huntley, Girvaud Roberts and Gus Roberts. Simply point your mouse to one of their names, read a biography or view still pictures of their personal desegregation experiences. With simple photography and heart beating rhythm, you will feel the fear, sense the suffering, see the bravery of these four young people as they open our eyes to the first days of desegregation. To make those feelings come to life, click on the picture of Dorothy Counts and see a video about her experiences as she reflects back on those early days.

Charlotte's AlI-Black Schools - Before desegregation, area African American children attended all-black schools. Open this electronic yearbook and read about the city, county and Rosenwald schools that were open to these children. In the section labeled "hear from teachers and students," you can choose from one of four video clips of personal accounts of life before and after desegregation at all-black schools.

Explore Beatties Ford Road - Explore the history, tradition and everyday life of one of Charlotte's most unique corridors. Stroll down the "river of life and you will feel like you are on memory lane. Read the article and click on any underlined word to view an image from Beatties Ford Road.

Now it is time to open your electronic photograph album and enjoy the events, places, keepsakes and heritage of An African American Album, Vol. II. As you browse through each section, take time to reflect and reminisce with the people who made history in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. Using your computer and your fingertips, you are ready take a fascinating journey.

Items from this exhibit may be shared in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. copyright law. Redistribution or republication on other terms, in any medium, requires express written consent from and advance notification of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Permission to reproduce the graphic images and some of the text in this exhibit have been granted by the owners of the original content for this exhibit only.