Founded in 1987, Mecklenburg Ministries is an interfaith, interracial, and multi-ethnic organization that seeks to build bridges across differences by engaging clergy, encouraging congregations and energizing the community through the inspiration of our shared faith traditions. Our nearly 100 member congregations represent more than a dozen faith traditions.
Monday, May 20 – 10:30am; FREE and PUBLIC INVITED
March from Johnson C. Smith University to County Courthouse
Kicking off with brief remarks at Johnson C. Smith University by freedom riders, participants will retrace the May 20, 1963 march led by Dr. Reginald Hawkins demanding desegregation, with a stop at Trade and Tryon for the annual Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence commemoration. “Singin’ Black and White” will lead us in the songs sung during the 1963 marches. Join in recreating history as we envision our future together!
Monday May 20 – 12:45pm
Old Mecklenburg County Courthouse, 600 E. Trade Street; FREE
Mayor Anthony Foxx will then lead the march from the Square to the Old Mecklenburg County Courthouse to complete the commemoration of the 1963 march. Mayor Foxx will read an official proclamation followed by a reading of excerpts from Dr. Hawkins’ May 20, 1963 speech read by a group of Charlotteans who represent the culturally rich and diverse City we are today.
Charlotte made national headlines in May 1963 when Chamber of Commerce members led by Mayor Stan Brookshire voluntarily joined with African American leaders to go two-by-two and desegregate Charlotte’s leading restaurants. This “eat-in” came three years after the sit-in movement had opened lunch counters. It helped set the stage for the nation’s landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act which decreed that segregation in all public accommodations must end.
Charlotte Civil Rights activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins triggered the action, leading a march on May 20, 1963 from Johnson C. Smith University to the old Mecklenburg County Courthouse and declaring “We shall not be pacified with gradualism; we shall not be satisfied with tokenism. We want freedom and we want it now.” His call echoed a spirit of revolution honored in Charlotte history when on May 20, 1775, forefathers signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence declaring freedom from England. Restauranteur James “Slug” Claiborne suggested Brookshire’s response and former Davidson College president Dr. John Cunningham, leader of what is now Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations, organized the activities.
The successful desegregation on May 29-31, 1963 pushed Charlotte into the national spotlight. The city’s progressive action contrasted sharply with the massive resistance then going on in places such as Birmingham, where police chief Bull Connor turned fire hoses and police dogs on young Civil Rights protestors that same month. It was a key turning point in Charlotte’s emergence as a major Southern city.
Other Historical Events to Enjoy
Sunday, May 19—2:30 p.m.
History Makers Panel Discussion – flyer attached
First United Presbyterian Church, 201 E. 7th St.; FREE
The Levine Museum presents a discussion by panelists, historians and participants of Charlotte’s restaurant desegregation sharing perspectives on these 1963 historical events.
Monday, May 20—7:30 p.m.
McGlohon Theater, Spirit Square;
$12, tickets available at www.carolinatix.org or 704.372.0023
The May 20th Society presents Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed author of The Warmth of Other Suns. She will draw on her extensive research on African American life in the 20th century to deliver a special talk in conjunction with Charlotte’s 1963 history.
Wednesday May 29, 2013 – “Eat-in” Event
Press conference 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 based on “Friday Friends.”
Thursday, May 30, 5:30 – 7:30pm
“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. Mayor Foxx and Dr. Ron Carter will lead us in reflections.
Tim Wise – Dismantling Racism Audio Now Available!