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 here, the second one here and last week’s show here.
“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 Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher — and now TuneIn, which means you can ask Alexa to play the CharlotteFive Podcast on your Amazon Echo. It’s awesome.
Photo: Don Sturkey/Charlotte Observer file photo