Mary T. Harper, left, and Bertha Maxwell-Roddey where both educators at UNC Charlotte when they co-founded what evolved to become the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. (Photo:

The Gantt Center paid homage to its “founding mothers” – Mary T. Harper and Bertha Maxwell-Roddey – by naming the building’s main lobby the Harper-Roddey Grand Lobby.

Harper and Roddey were both educators at UNC Charlotte in the racially turbulent 1970s when they co-founded the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Afro-American Cultural and Service Center to honor and preserve black history culture. Over the decades, the center, officially founded in 1974, evolved to become the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, named in honor of the Charlotte’s first black mayor, Harvey B. Gantt.

“Because of the vision that Dr. Maxwell Roddey and Dr. Harper put into action, the Gantt Center now stands as a beacon in Charlotte to showcase the culture, the history and creative ingenuity of the African-American community and the African diaspora.  Renaming the lobby in their honor enabled us to honor them and say thank you for initiating the pathway that allows us to serve the community now, and for generations to come,” Gantt Center President & CEO David Taylor said in a statement.

At a Wednesday evening reception at the Gantt Center, Charlotte City Council member Justin Harlow read a proclamation declaring August 22 Harper-Roddey Day.

See more photos from this event.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include a statement from Gantt Center President & CEO David Taylor.