8 moments in Charlotte’s Black history as we celebrate its 250th birthday

As the city of Charlotte celebrates its 250th birthday today with cake and fanfare, we wanted to revisit some of the city’s historic moments in Black history. While there’s many more noteworthy moments, we narrowed the list down to eight.

1867-1876

The Freedman’s College of North Carolina is chartered as a school to educate newly freedmen. Charlotte citizen Colonel W.R. Myers donates the first eight acres of land for the school, which today is known as Johnson C. Smith University.

Biddle Hall at Johnson C. Smith University

1891

Good Samaritan Hospital opens as the first privately-funded, independent hospital in North Carolina built exclusively for the treatment of Black people. In 1913, the hospital is the scene for the death of Joe McNeely, the city’s only recorded lynching. Good Samaritan Hospital is demolished in 1996 to make way for the home of the Carolina Panthers, Bank of America Stadium.

1905

The Brevard Street Library opens at the corner of Brevard and East Second Streets in the Second Ward neighborhood. It’s the first public library to serve Charlotte’s Black community. Black patrons aren’t allowed in Charlotte’s first public library, which opened two years earlier thanks to a $25,000 gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The Brevard Street Library remains open through 1961.

Rameses Temple members in front of the Brevard Street Library. Source: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

1957

Sixteen-year-old Gus Roberts begins as a student at Central High School and becomes one of four Black students to integrate formerly all-white schools in Charlotte. His sister, Girvaud Roberts, does the same at Piedmont Junior High as well as Dorothy Counts at Harding High and Delois Huntley at Alexander Graham Junior High. Of the four students, Gus Roberts is the only one to remain at an integrated school through graduation.

1964

The Seal of Mecklenburg is adopted. It’s designed by Matthews native Harvey Boyd, a Black graphic designer who goes on to work in advertising at The Charlotte Observer, The Washington Post, General Motors and more.

1965

Frederick Douglas Alexander, Sr., becomes the first African-American elected to Charlotte’s City Council in the 20th century. He serves five terms including one term as the city’s first Black mayor pro tem. Following his Council service, Alexander serves from 1974 to 1980 in the North Carolina Senate.

1983

Harvey Gantt is sworn in as Charlotte’s first Black mayor. Previously, he was the first Black student admitted to Clemson University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Gantt’s architectural firm gets involved with many Charlotte projects including the Charlotte Transportation Center, ImaginOn children’s museum and UNC Charlotte’s Center City building. His political career inspires others who would become Black firsts, like our 44th president.

Barack Obama shows his support for Harvey Gantt’s U.S. Senate bid. Source: theobamadiary.com

2017

Vi Lyles is sworn in as Charlotte’s first Black female mayor.

What are some other noteworthy moments?

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