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1971 - 1995


March in support of West Charlotte High,

Students march in support of West Charlotte High School in 1974 to protest against a potential school closing.


A time when there are so many unknowns as a child pertaining to your education. A time when change seems only hopeful for some.

A time when children are learning with and from each other in spite of the color of their skin. A time when Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech felt like it was manifesting in real life.

A time when special programs for special kids are placed in schools. A time when special or giftedness was coded for White. 

A time when schools were integrated but classrooms were segregated. 

...Just Imagine



Charlotte Aerial View



Charlotte Aerial View



In this clip, take a tour of Charlotte in the 1980s. Explore the scenery of the city before the Bank of America Tower was completed in 1992 and the Bank of America Panthers Stadium was completed in 1996. Due to ongoing construction, the city began to experience many changes, including the attraction of new residents to the area; many of whom were not familiar with the historical racial and economic segregation which led to integration policies within the school system. The lack of knowledge, or concern perhaps, by some new residents would eventually lead to a more assertive approach to end busing through the justice system.




In 1971...

With the Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg

Schools case, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously upheld busing programs that aimed to speed up the racial integration of public schools in the United States. Julius Chambers was the Charlotte attorney who represented the Swann family in the national Swann v. Charlotte- Mecklenburg Board of Education case which led to school busing.

West Charlotte students meet with studen


In 1974...

Charlotte is nationally recognized as

"The City that Made Integration Work" through its busing model and is eventually recognized as one of the most integrated school systems. West Charlotte High School is spotlighted for its successful integration practices in several national publications. The success of Charlotte's school integration model is short-lived for only a few decades. 



In 1992...

The busing model receives a lot of criticism and parents from predominately affluent backgrounds fight to end the mandate. Eventually, members of the Board of Education begin considering alternative options. The Char-Meck School Board votes unanimously to open magnet schools throughout the state as a busing alternative to attract White students to schools in Black neighborhoods "by choice."


Victory Christian High School Students


In this video, students from Victory Christian High School highlight pivotal events in education for Black children and educators from 1971 to 1996.




In this clip, Pamela Grundy discusses the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case spearheaded by Julius Chambers.


Pamela Grundy is a Charlotte historian and author of the book Color and Character which details the history of West Charlotte High School. Pamela provided four historical workshops to all youth involved in the Education of Blacks in Charlotte project.


Check out more articles written by Pamela Grundy on Charlotte's History with the Queen City Nerve.

Harvey Gantt Becomes Charlotte's First Black Mayor in 1983


Harvey Gantt is spotlighted in this clip for his continuous efforts in Charlotte with urban planning and becoming the first Black Mayor of the city. 

Gantt also played a tremendous role in race relations in the city of Charlotte in the 1990s with the Common Ground Project.


Captured Memories


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Phillip O Berry (1940 - 1984) began campaigning for a position on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board in 1968. In 1970 he became the first African-American branch manager of a White-owned local Charlotte Bank called North Carolina National Bank, (NCNB). In 1972 he was the first African-American to be elected to the CMS Board of Education. In 1977, he was elected chairman of the CMS Board of Education. He served in this capacity until 1982, when he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives.



Julius L. Chambers was an African American civil rights lawyer, educator, and activist from Mount Gilead, North Carolina. Schools were segregated during Chambers' era of learning. After graduating from high school, he attended North Carolina Central University where he studied law. Chambers was a brilliant student at North Carolina Central University. He even caught the attention of Thurgood Marshall. Chambers graduated in 1962, and he ranked first in his class of 100 peers. In 1964, he earned his LL.M. (Master of Laws) degree from Columbia University Law School. In 1963, Chambers worked as the first intern for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF). In 1964, Chambers opened the first integrated law firm in North Carolina. James E. Ferguson II and Adam Stein were Julius’ founding partners and because of their hard work and diligence, they shaped civil rights law by winning court cases including the case Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education. 


James Coleman is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina. In the mid-1960s, during his senior year of high school in still-segregated Charlotte, North Carolina, Mr. Coleman worked for prominent civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers. He considers his work as a pivotal experience to learn and understand Mr. Chambers' methods in the courtroom. Many people saw Julius Chambers' presence as fearful and commanding, but Mr. Coleman saw that he had the power and visibility to go into courtrooms and challenge the status quo. This same determination influenced Mr. Coleman's desire to take up that same fight by fighting for justice.  



A New York Times short documentary highlights the era of busing in Charlotte. The video captures the resistance from many White and affluent families. 

Additionally, this video clip shows the successes that were experienced during this era and the struggle faced by many to maintain integrated schools in the city of Charlotte.

In The News


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January 18, 1984 | Charlotte Observer

Sarah Stevenson Files, Stressing Integration

The Charlotte Observer spotlights Stevenson's argument to evaluate resegregation of schools on the Southside of Charlotte in the 1980s.


October 11, 1970 | Charlotte Observer

Neighborhood Schools On Trial This Week

The Charlotte Observer discusses the trial of neighborhood schools in Charlotte and the failure of the city to assertively integrate.

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January 19, 1972 | Charlotte Observer

Black Will Run For School Board

This article highlights Phillip O. Berry's announcement to run as the first African African to serve on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board.

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August 24, 1973 | Charlotte Observer

Open School Dreams Take Shape at Picnic

The Charlotte Observer spotlights how the concept of magnet schools initially formed through the open school concept in the 1970s.

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June 6, 1982 | Charlotte Observer

School Desegregation: A Historical Graduation

The Charlotte Observer highlights the graduation of students in Charlotte Mecklenburg to attend integrated schools in all 12 grades.

Video Gallery


Susan Brown Interview

Susan Brown is a former student and educator in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. She currently teaches in Lancaster County. In this clip, she discusses the evolution of education in Charlotte from her perspective and addresses the resegregation of schools that took place in the ‘90s, moreover the shift from a racial, to an economic divide. 

Charlie Dannelly Interview

Charlie Dannelly, a previous educator of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and former NC state senator discusses integration in the school system, in the 1960s.

Shirley and Michael Pratt Interview

Former students and educators of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Shirley and Michael Pratt, discuss their Christian Principles influenced their goal of being to successful educators in public and private schools.

George Dunlap and Arthur Griffin Interview

Members of the Board of Education and former students of CMS, George Dunlap & Arthur Griffin recall an experience with race in the classroom.

Youth Contributions



Artwork by Rachel Edmonds, Victory Christian High School



Artwork by Ariana Anderson, Victory Christian High School (2020)

POEM: Evolution of CMS Education

Dedicated to the students and influencers of the era (1971 - 1995)


How do we teach our children to appreciate education? 

And grow to love it 

How do we crack the code to the system? 

And then rise above it 


For years, African Americans 

Have risen above every obstacle,

So whatever you set your mind to 

Will never be impossible.


Let’s start from the beginning

Blacks thought busing was the door to greater opportunities,

But the original purpose 

Was to divide the black and white communities.


The resources were low

But that was only one-sided,

I guess white officials stuck to the phrase

That if you want to keep something from a black then hide it.


Hide it in a book! 

No child wants to read out of a book that is worn down and torn,

But African American children received the hand-me-downs of white kids

So in a way, it took away the zeal to learn. 


However, that didn’t stop the teachers 

From using their gift of teaching,

Even with the lack of proper resources

They still encouraged their students to keep believing.


In some situations 

Even the classrooms remained segregated,

With whites up front and blacks in the back

Another problem was created.


For some students 

It wasn’t hard to learn in a class of racial tension, 

But there were some complaints 

About not getting enough attention.

Poem by Ariah Cornelius, Victory Christian HS (2020)

Even in the cafeteria

Kids sat amongst peers that looked like them,

The image I get is a black and white room

Uncomfortably covered with a segregated film.


It looks bad but there is hope

For this shaky and problematic start,

Eventually, the kids learned to see past their differences

And they began to look at the heart.


It wasn’t an easy task 

Because for a long time racial tension had been taught,

But eventually, it had to put aside

And the line of segregation had to be crossed.


If you take a look at schools like Myers Park

African Americans didn’t really feel at home,

But over time with lots of patience

They began to feel like they belonged.


Although resegregation occurred in the 1990s

It doesn’t mean that all efforts failed,

In fact, integration became more popular

And diversity was soon unveiled.


Teachers began to show love for their students

And strongly encouraged them to succeed,

Students took the mindset of “we can be friends

Even if you don’t look like me.”


So how do we teach our children to appreciate education

And grow to love it?

We teach them to rise above obstacles

Because those before you have already done it! 


Ariah (Victory Christian High School) performs her poem which was a contribution to this era and reflects what she learned about the experiences of Black Children and education in Charlotte.

School Bus
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Jaryd Broome, 16

As a reporter, I had an amazing opportunity to interview influential figures and hardworking administrators who went above and beyond the CMS mission to educate and support their students. One of the more outstanding interviews that I conducted was with Charlie Dannelly, who was a principal and assistant principal for thirty years. During that time, he said that he learned a lot about people.  He found that students respond better to those who show love toward them.  He went on to say that "someone who does not love children has no business being a teacher." That really stuck with me because even I notice that students are more open to those who show compassion. I believe this knowledge will be valuable to me for the rest of my life.
As a native Charlottean, this experience was both intriguing and fascinating.  I learned so much about impactful historical and events.   It was surprising to realize that such pivotal events happened “down the street” from where I have lived my whole life. Now that I have seen how the past has affected where we are now, I am excited to see what is in store for the future of our city.

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Patricia Hamilton, 15

 The thing that was impressive throughout this project was the people that we interviewed. As Black students, they were resilient and stayed persistent in their goals. In the beginning, I did not know anything about Charlotte’s history of Black education, but now that I have researched and studied it, I can answer the questions that I had before and feel good about it. What I learned from this project is to take school seriously, because without an education it would be hard getting a high-paying job. After all, this project was informative, encouraging, and an experience that I will never forget. 

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Rachel Edmonds, 17

The painting I contributed of the classroom depicts what classrooms looked like in the 1970s. During this time, people were fighting for equality between African American and whites, so segregation was slowly coming to an end. The schooling system beforehand was unfair where as black schools were shabby, white schools were pristine. Many people complained about how unfair it was that the schools were so different, and sooner or later there were some changes. You can see from the painting that the ratio of white to black students was severely unbalanced. Also, even when the black students came to the white schools they were not treated kindly by most teachers and students. The students more than likely did not know any better because they were only doing what they have been taught, but the teachers did; therefore, the students are represented as pawns in the painting. The pawns in chess can go straight or attack if they are used in that way; however, when they reach the other side, they can become any of the other pieces, making them very valuable. It is similar to children because though they may be young, they are our future, and what you teach them will impact how life will be later on.

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Ariah Cornelius, 17

For years, we have learned about famous African-Americans. Yet, we never imagined that some of those great men and women lived in the same city that we live in. I always thought I had sufficient knowledge of Black history to appreciate and respect the trailblazers of Black education, but, in doing this research, appreciation would be an understatement. I am inspired by the zeal and passion expressed by both the teachers and the students of that era. They truly valued the use of education despite the challenges and obstacles they faced in acquiring it.


I am grateful for the things that I learned from this project. It gives me a fresh outlook on education in general. The thing that stuck with me the most is to prize and cherish the opportunities that are granted to me because those who made it possible did not have the same access but created the possibility for me to have access. I was inspired by all of the information that I learned from this research and deeply appreciative of those who blazed the trail for better opportunities for those of us who would follow them.





School Bus
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Ariel Cornelius, 17

Students of this generation have so many excuses as to why they can not do something, that they fail to see why they can. Looking back on the people who changed the game for us, has inspired me to do better, strive harder, and go farther. There are no more excuses. As a generation, we have forgotten the cost it took to get to where we are. We have so much handed to us that we have lost the meaning of hard work. We need a wake-up call. The world does not just hand things to us; we have to work hard to become successful and the people we were able to speak to helped me understand that. Things that are handed to us never last, but the things we work for last forever. Education is one of the most important keys to success, so we have to take it seriously. Once we realize that and if we have the strength and perseverance to do something, we can accomplish greatness.

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Bryce Hall, 15

This project has informed me about Black History and the way our education system has changed whether for better or for worse. I’ve learned about many different people who made an impact in education and schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and in North Carolina. My influencer I had to research was Philip O. Berry, and he was always involved in the community. He was the first African American to be elected to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and served for 10 years. 

My job in the project was to look up influencers to provide my team and Philip O Berry is who I chose. I believe this project can be used to spread information to all the people and maybe even inspire some people to become  influencers in their community. I want to thank God for giving me this experience because this was valuable information.

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Ariana Anderson, 17

The Education of Blacks of Charlotte Project was a great and informative experience.
Each week we learned from historian Pamela Grundy surrounding the hardships and perseverance Blacks experienced regarding education through various periods. I found the information we learned astonishing because I was not aware of the social, political, and historical impact that local CMS public school systems had on Blacks. Following our workshops, it was time to gather all that we learned and present it. Our school decided to designate each team member to a specific job to ensure each part of the upcoming website would be done. My job was to find influencers and create a drawing piece representing our time frame, 1971-1995.
Throughout this project, it was a time of reflection to think about how much sacrifice and
hardship Blacks had gone through to have an equivalent education experience just like any other race. This project made me feel grateful and humbled to know that throughout all of the pain and separation that Blacks had to face for a decent education, we, the future, can learn from this and make it a priority to put our education first.

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