Charlotte to mark 50 years of desegregation

Week-long celebration of 1963 restaurant desegregation

by Maria Dominguez  Editorial Intern  intern@goqnotes.com
Published: May 17, 2013 in News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Non-profit groups, museums and universities will join together this month to mark the 50th anniversary of Charlotte’s restaurant desegregation.

Several activities are planned next week to mark the historic May 1963 events, when Mayor Stan Brookshire led a group of Chamber of Commerce members to unite with African-American leaders in desegregating the city’s prominent restaurants.

The “eat in” was fueled by Dr. Reginald Hawkins, a native North Carolinian and civil rights activist, who on May 20, 1963, led a march from Johnson C. Smith University to the Mecklenburg Country Courthouse. His cry against gradualism and demand for immediate action is thought to have sparked the Charlotte leaders’ decision to desegregate.

Just days later, from May 29-31, 1963, Charlotte successfully desegregated restaurants across the city, drawing the attention of the nation.

Groups across the city will commemorate the events, including May 20th Society, Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations, Merts Heart & Soul and Mecklenburg Ministries.

Other contributors are Queens University, Charlotte Chamber, Johnson C. Smith University,  Community Building Initiative, Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte Center City Partners, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Carolina Room.

Below are the events as listed in a press release from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations:

Sunday, May 19 at 2:30 p.m. – History Makers Panel Discussion
1963 Participants & historians share their stories. Organized by Levine Museum of the New South at 1st United Presbyterian Church (201 E. 7th Street).

Monday, May 20 at 10:30 a.m. – March from Johnson C. Smith University to County Courthouse
Reenacting the May 20, 1963 march led by Dr. Reginald Hawkins demanding desegregation. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Monday, May 20 at 11:30 a.m. – Annual Noon Commemoration of Mecklenburg Declaration
In uptown including cannons, reading of declaration and a celebration of Mecklenburg County’s 250th anniversary. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Monday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. – The May 20th Society 8th Annual Speaker Series
The May 20th Society 8th Annual Speaker Series features Pulitzer Prize author Isabel Wilkerson, Warmth of Other Suns, who will connect her research on 20th century African American history with the Charlotte 1963 history. Lecture in McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square (345 N College Street).

Wednesday, May 29 – “Eat-in” Event
For media in late morning will mark the historic desegregation, featuring some of today’s civic leaders. It will kick off two days in which Charlotteans are urged to invite someone of a different race to lunch. Coordinated by Mecklenburg Ministries’ “Friday Friends” program. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Thursday, May 30 (from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.) – “From Sit-ins to Eat-ins” Community Festival
Hosted by Mecklenburg Ministries’ “Friday Friends” at Levine Museum. Music and munchies set the mood on 1963. Participants in the 2013 Eat-in reflect on history, share what they’ve learned and suggest hopes for future. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Throughout May
Mecklenburg Ministries encourages churches, temples, mosques and other faith organizations to draw upon this history in sermons and other communications.