During a visit to Charlotte, North Carolina I visited the Levine Museum of the New South and I couldn’t wait to share some of the information I gained there.
The term “New South” refers to the post-Civil War and post-slavery South that was trying to move beyond its white supremacist roots toward a future with economic opportunity spurred by cutting-edge technology and participation in the national scene. Charlotte was one of the cities in the South that moved rapidly from a relatively small agricultural enclave to a lively city with exponential growth in population, infrastructure, and capital. The museum traces the history of Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont from “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers.”
Below are some photos I took (sorry for the glare) along with interpretations of their historical significance and connections to the present. I highly recommend you visit if you have the opportunity.
Levine Museum of the New South (front desk)
The Museum of the New South’s permanent exhibit is “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” which also encompasses the general timeline of the entire museum.
The darker areas yield the most cotton. The vertical strip represents the Mississippi Delta (on both sides of the river).
Most people in the immediate period after the Civil War were poor farmers. After slavery was abolished many people, both white and black farmed land that didn’t belong to them. This picture shows the income disparity between white and black tenant farmers/sharecroppers.
F.A. Clinton helped bring public schools to South Carolina.
Many evangelical Christians object to public education for various reasons. This picture reminds us that public schools were formed to offer an education to recently freed slaves who were denied access to formal education.
White southerners developed the myth of the “Lost Cause” to explain the Civil War and cast the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) as an evil invention of the federal government, northerners, and shiftless blacks.
Thomas Dixon published “The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan” in 1905. As the title implies, it portrays members of the Klan as heroes who “redeem” the South. It was later adapted into a movie.
D.W. Griffith filmed “The Birth of a Nation” as an adaptation of Thomas Dixon’s “The Clansman.” The silent movie glorified the Klan as heroes who took back the South from northern agitators and black people who weren’t suited to freedom from the white man. President Woodrow Wilson like it so much that he held several screenings of the film in the White House.
A hood of a Ku Klux Klan member
“Jim Crow” was a system of segregation and inequality that prevailed in the South after the Civil War. While many of the Jim Crow codes were unspoken and practiced by custom, some, like this law preventing black and white textile workers from laboring together, were written into law.
The South had many poor whites who went from farming their own plots of land to working in factories as industrialization took hold.
Good Samaritan Hospital was the first hospital in Charlotte to serve all African Americans.
The Good Samaritan Hospital was eventually torn down, but pieces from the chapel there were preserved.
The number of churches in Charlotte by denomination and race
Hymn book of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) church which has its denominational headquarters in Charlotte
Inequalities in funding were apparent in school facilities for whites versus black students.
Red-lining confined African American populations to certain parts of the city while their white counterparts could buy property anywhere they preferred.
Charlotte divided into real estate areas based on race. Blue and green areas were considered “desirable” and yellow and red areas were off-limits for whites and reserved for people of color.
Ku Klux Klan sheet
Charlotte played a key role in school desegregation. The Swann decision declared busing legal for the purposes of increasing racial diversity in the schools.
The Swann decision stood for 25 years, but it was struck down in 1999. Since then the schools have become more segregated.
The concentration of races in Charlotte. The red areas have the highest concentrations of African Americans.
The killing of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer in 2016 sparked protests and cries for justice in Charlotte.
Description of the circumstances surrounding Keith Lamont Scott’s death