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Modern Era Begins 1946-1959

1954 - Ike Visits Charlotte

May 18, 1954 - More than 60,000 people crowd into Charlotte's Freedom Park to hear President Dwight Eisenhower speak. His visit is part of the annual Meck Dec Day commemoration. Choirs sing as citizens celebrate Mecklenburg's 1775 declaration of independence from British rule. President Eisenhower at Freedom Park

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1955 - Ovens Auditorium

September 11, 1955 - Named for outspoken civic leader David Ovens, the auditorium honoring him opens. Ovens once convinced Enrico Caruso, the world-renowned opera singer, to perform in the Queen City. Caruso claimed he had never sung anywhere smaller than Charlotte! The 2,600-seat auditorium adjoins the Charlotte Coliseum, the world's largest unsupported concrete dome. In later years, the coliseum will be known as Independence Arena. 

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1955 - Strength of One

December 1, 1955 - A black seamstress is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa Parks has refused to give up her bus seat to a white person. To bring attention to the unfairness of racial separation, called segregation, other black citizens refuse to ride the buses unless they are granted the same rights as white citizens. This refusal is called a boycott. It lasts more than a year. 

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1956 - Early integration

January 5, 1956 - Federal law desegregates interstate buses, meaning it will be illegal for these buses to have separate sections for black and white riders. But the law only applies to buses that travel between states. Buses that run within one state can still be segregated. Even in Charlotte, there are separate waiting rooms for white people and black people, called colored. Desegregation of buses and trains

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1956 - Expansion

August 27, 1956 - Independence Boulevard opens, replacing unpaved sections of Stonewall Street. As the massive roadway links the east and west sides of Charlotte, it cuts through Second Ward, home of many of the city's black families. It won't be long before the entire Second Ward neighborhood is torn down.

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1957 - The Right to Vote

August 29, 1957 - President Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits interfering with any American's right to vote. But not everyone supports the law that ultimately empowers blacks. South Carolina's Senator Strom Thurmond speaks against the Civil Rights Act for a record-breaking 24 hours!

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August 29, 1957

1957 - Children Lead

September 4, 1957  - Today, four brave, young black people will test the new laws against school segregation. As the nation watches, these desegregation pioneers arrive at four of Charlotte's all-white schools. The crowds who have gathered are angry. In the tense days that follow, people throw things at Dorothy Counts. They call Gus Roberts names. They shun Delois Huntley and Gus Roberts' little sister, Girvaud. Of the four, only Gus Roberts will stay long enough to graduate. 

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September 4, 1957

1959 - First Mall

October 28, 1959 - The first enclosed retail shopping center in the Carolinas opens. Charlottetown Mall will affect retail shopping patterns as it draws customers away from downtown. Although its name will change in later years to Midtown Square, the mall will operate continuously. 

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October 28, 1959

1949 - Rebuilding Lives

The veterans, men and women who fought in World War II, are returning home. To educate them, teacher Bonnie Cone pushes for new schools. Charlotte College is for whites, and holds classes at the old Central High School. Carver College is for blacks. Its classes are held at night at Second Ward High School. By 1963, Carver will become part of Central Piedmont Community College. Charlotte College will evolve into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1965. The first registration of students for Carver College took place on September 16, 1949.

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September 16, 1949

1956 - New Libraries

November 19, 1956 - The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County boasts a new, modern facility on the North Tryon Street site of the old Carnegie Library. The expansion also includes branch libraries for the Mecklenburg towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Matthews and Pineville. While many buildings restrict by segregation where black people can go, Charlotte's library quietly accommodates black patrons. In 1961, the Brevard Street library that has served the black community since 1905 will close. Soon, laws will prohibit segregation. 

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