Meet the man who led Charlotte’s lunch counter sit-ins and went to jail with Martin Luther King Jr.

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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.

On this week’s episode of the CharlotteFive Podcast, we talked to Civil Rights leader and attorney Charles Jones. Well, he did most of the talking — and even a little singing. Take a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

All Sarah Crosland and I had to do was ask about three questions and Jones spun fascinating tales about his incredible life and experiences as a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Mid-story he’d break into song, turning his life into an ad-libbed musical.

Jones led the movement to integrate lunch counters in Charlotte, following the lead of students in Greensboro. He met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — he calls him “Martin” — and traveled the country with the Freedom Riders, even spending time in jail with King. He worked on a chain gang in Rock Hill — and filled a jail with spirituals until it got him put in solitary confinement.

JCSU students demanding service at the Woolworth lunch counter in Charlotte on February 9, 1960 listen listen to protest leader Charles Jones (right), caution them to remain calm and peaceful. 1960 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
JCSU students demanding service at the Woolworth lunch counter in Charlotte on February 9, 1960 listen to protest leader Charles Jones (right), caution them to remain calm and peaceful. 1960 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
Charles Jones, talking to reporters in February 1960, answers questions about the intentions of student protesters.
Charles Jones, talking to reporters in February 1960, answers questions about the intentions of student protesters.

We also talked to Jones about his house, a solar-powered wonder in Biddleville that features an indoor greenhouse. At 79 he’s still working, practicing a little law but mostly working as an advocate for the neighborhood he’s lived in for most of his life and other West Charlotte neighborhoods around Johnson C. Smith University.

Jones is full of stories, and you’ll be hanging on every word.

In the first half of the episode, Sarah talked about what inspired this series, a little nugget of Charlotte history involving two uptown cemeteries and a fence.

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, and produced by Richard Brooke.

You can find The CharlotteFive Podcast on SoundcloudiTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher. You can follow us on Twitter @Charlotte_Five, on Instagram @cltfive, and on Facebook, and you can shoot us an email to charlottefive@charlottefive.com.

Photos: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer; Charlotte Observer file

1 COMMENT

  1. Is Charles Jones still alive? I am having the hardest time finding contact information; but my students loved watching his interviews about the civil rights movement. I would love if he could come to my school in Eastern Charlotte at Winterfield Elementary to talk to my kids.

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