JCSU seeks to document housing and gentrification in Charlotte

The school recently got funding to create a digital, interactive map of the city’s historic buildings and landmarks.

Community members walk through the Johnson C. Smith University RCLM37 exhibit, one of the schools latest projects aimed at archiving and sharing Charlotte's history of housing. (Photos: James B. Duke Memorial Library, Johnson C. Smith University)

Johnson C. Smith University is working to collect community records in an effort to document the history of housing and gentrification in Charlotte.

At a community meeting Tuesday, archivist Brandon Lunsford asked for the public’s help in “preserving the history of Charlotte’s changing neighborhoods.”

The school’s James B. Duke Memorial Library recently got funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities and Lyrasis to create a digital, interactive map of the city’s historic buildings and landmarks.

The mapping project seeks to document the history and stories of the Historic West End, the vibrant 150-year-old Black community that surrounds JCSU.

“It’s important to us that we allow those who experienced the history to shape the narratives around its preservation,” Lunsford said.

This latest initiative is one of several undertaken by the university to tell the story of Charlotte’s history through family, community and anecdotal records.

On Saturday, July 13, the library will host a community discussion focused on how to tell Charlotte’s history through art, part of its Public Art Project. The forum, which is open to the public, will feature local artists and community leaders. It’s scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Olivia Richard, a Los Angeles native, is on assignment with Qcitymetro through the Report for America program. While in Charlotte, she will focus on local government, affordable housing and how they impact the city’s black community. Email: orichard@qcitymetro.com.

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