Date(s) - 05/08/2013
8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
In partnership with the Levine Museum of the New South and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations, join the Charlotte Chamber for a special MWBE Connect program and kickoff to the “From Sit-ins to Eat-ins” community program series to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Charlotte’s desegregation in May 1963. You will learn about the surprising history of the integration of Charlotte’s leading restaurants and the important role of the chamber and the business community in supporting desegregation. Panelists will discuss this history and share the impressive roster of commemorative events planned for May 2013.
Featuring Jack Claiborne, former reporter and editorial writer for the Charlotte Observer and author of Discovering North Carolina: A Tar Heel Reader and The Crown of the Queen City: A History of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South and author of Sorting Out the New South City, a book about race and neighborhoods in Charlotte, and Willie Ratchford, Executive Director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.
Charlotte made national headlines in May 1963 when Chamber of Commerce members led by Mayor Stan Brookshire voluntarily joined with African American leaders to go two-by-two and desegregate Charlotte’s leading restaurants. This “eat-in” came three years after the sit-in movement had opened lunch counters. It helped set the stage for the nation’s landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act which decreed that segregation in all “public accommodations” must end.
Charlotte Civil Rights activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins triggered the action, leading a May 20 march from Johnson C. Smith University to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse where he declared, “We shall not be pacified with gradualism; we shall not be satisfied with tokenism. We want freedom and we want it now.” His call echoed a spirit of revolution honored in Charlotte history: tradition holds that on May 20, 1775, forefathers here signed a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence declaring freedom from England. Restaurateur James “Slug” Claiborne suggested Brookshire’s response and former Davidson College president Dr. John Cunningham, leader of what is now Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations, organized the activities.
The successful desegregation on May 29-31, 1963 pushed Charlotte into the national spotlight. The city’s progressive action contrasted sharply with the massive resistance then going on in places such as Birmingham, where police chief Bull Connor turned fire hoses and police dogs on young Civil Rights protestors that same month. It was a key turning point in Charlotte’s emergence as a major Southern city.