How did Charlotte become a segregated city?


February is Black History Month, but how much do you actually know about Charlotte’s African-American history?

This month on the CharlotteFive Podcast, we hope to educate you on Charlotte’s history and introduce you to important figures in Charlotte’s Civil Rights Movement. You’ll hear their stories, their thoughts on how Charlotte has changed over the years and what they think about the issues currently facing the city. You can find the first episode herethe second one here and last week’s show here.

Tom Hanchett

“Segregation didn’t just happen,” said Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett. “It was invented.”

Back in the 1890s, Charlotte wasn’t a segregated city — white people and black people lived on the same block all over the city. They mixed together. But all that changed in the early 1900s.

On this week’s CharlotteFive Podcast, Hanchett, the former staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South, explains just how Charlotte became a segregated city.

In the 1890s, the country was rocked by an economic depression. In response, black and white working-class people came together to create a “fusion” party to try to better their situation, Hanchett explains. The white elite — the property owners — didn’t like that, and worked to “end this rule of Negroes and low-class whites,” according to Hanchett.

And so segregation was invented. That’s when you started seeing “white supremacy,” poll taxes and literacy tests, and the separate facilities for white people and black people. And that is what led to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, and beyond.

You can still see the remnants of this 1900s segregation by looking at Charlotte’s wedge and crescent: The wedge of wealthy people in south Charlotte and the crescent of high-poverty areas stretching from the west, up to the north and over to the east.

On this week’s podcast, Hanchett dives deep into the story of how Charlotte became segregated, and how it was different than other Southern cities.

For some background reading: Hanchett has written about this issue in his book “Sorting Out the New South City,” and The Atlantic also talked to Hanchett for a story it published recently titled “Segregation Had to Be Invented.”

Other things discussed on this week’s podcast:

– How Charlotte neighborhoods got their names.

– The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s new location planned for Cornelius.

– What you should be doing this weekend.

The CharlotteFive Podcast — presented by The Charlotte Observer and powered by OrthoCarolina — is a weekly podcast that aims to get you Charlotte Smart, Fast with fun, interesting and useful news about the city. It’s hosted by Corey Inscoe and Sarah Crosland.

You can find The CharlotteFive Podcast on SoundcloudiTunesGoogle Play,  Stitcher — and now TuneIn, which means you can ask Alexa to play the CharlotteFive Podcast on your Amazon Echo. It’s awesome.

You can follow us on Twitter @Charlotte_Five, on Instagram @cltfive, and on Facebook, and you can shoot us an email to

Photo: Don Sturkey/Charlotte Observer file photo


  1. Segregation, in my opinion has never been the problem. Since we got of the Slave boats we have been interacting with Caucasians, un-admittedly against our will. Segregation is a smoke screen word to make every one Black, White, Brown, specifically Black that if we are just around Caucasians, than our quality of life is somehow uplifted, perfected, refined, whatever. Why no one questions these terms boggles me.
    Look at Black wall-street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was Bombed because Caucasians got jealous of Africans who were doing quite well without them. They closed off the city with the help of the good old government, and then every Caucasian gathered their ammo, teenage sons, and whatever else they could find to be violent with, and slaughtered us. Never again has there been anything greater. No. This “segregation idea is false. It is actually more stressful and unwelcoming. It has been since SLAVERY. It is the Equity and institutional racism that is ruining the future of African-American youth, along with a slew of other white supremacist, systematic dealings. Like how the grants and loans are so hard and may as well be unreachable to reach for by Black entrepreneurs all over Charlotte, and it’s happening all over this segregated country that insists on trapping African- Americans in a permanent underclass status.
    It is the perpetual, selfish greedy, evil, “white Code” that plagues Blacks everywhere. Please, do not mention entertainers and puppets that are paid by rich white elites as a rebuttal to further confuse and diffuse the minds of Black people in this country. I am talking about the average Black male or female who are just regular Americans with a dream of becoming successful and then passing that success down to their children. Not working at some dead end job, or two, or three, with more bills and no hope to get out. It seems that is what America thinks we deserved after building this damn country after it was ripped from under the feet of the original natives of this land. It sickens me at how afraid and blind my people are to how unfair and evil we continue to be treated by the same people who welcome our labor and Black dollars. I’m leaving this country after I get my degree. We had to fight and suffer just to read and write, let alone go to school. It’s the least I can do in this country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here