Thursday, December 4, 2014

We Have a New Blog -- FINAL POST!

Hello Museum Supporters,

We are excited to announce we have a new website! It was a long process but we are happy with the results. With the new website comes a new blog. Check out our New South Dialogue blog and share your thoughts about the new site on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.


Levine Museum

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who's in the Room?

While interning for the Education Department at Levine Museum of the New South this summer, I've heard community members time and again comment, “Now, the Levine Museum does history the right way.”  Over the course of this summer, I've increasingly understood what it means to “do history” the “right way.”  

Growing up in small-town North Carolina, I had a very limited understanding of history—especially when it came to the history of the South.  Like many other Southern children, I was taught to believe and accept that Stonewall Jackson was a great leader and that the Confederate flag was an acceptable symbol of Southern identity.  It was not until I started studying Anthropology in college that I started to ask myself questions about how history is made, published and taught.  

Traditionally, history has been fabricated based on limited perspectives and the loudest voices in the room.  In other words, power plays a major role in the shaping of history.  Just as the accumulation of power has depended on socially constructed factors-- race, skin color, displays of wealth—the ability to write and tell history has been centralized along similar constructs.  As a result, what we know of events, people, culture and places are really objects of partial histories and partial truths.  These are problematic in that they are only a sliver of the many perspectives that actually exist. 

Levine Museum has sought to break away from the classical museum model by employing a bottom-up approach.  It seeks to allow community members to speak for themselves and tell their own stories.  Ranging from the use of listening sessions to collect community input on exhibit design to programming pop-up sessions to collect oral stories, Levine Museum is inclusive of narratives across the spectrum of race, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and more.  Emphasis is placed on self-representation and the multiplicity of voices and perspectives.  

Last spring the Museum hosted Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid, an artfully crafted exhibit from artist Annabel Manning and curator Carla Hanzal, which featured names, photos and narratives of undocumented students around North Carolina.  The exhibit was particularly exemplary of the museum’s approach as it empowered and gave voice to a population of students who have been systematically disfranchised and disempowered.  In July, the Museum opened LGBTQ: Perspectives on Equality which also took on the approach of having visitors and community members tell their stories and influence what direction the exhibits and programming should take. 

Such exhibits not only make what we do authentic so that it resonates with visitors and their thinking we did the history “right;” but more importantly, they serve as community safe space where stories are validated and appreciated as threads of a richer community fabric.  

~Yeeva Cheng, Education Intern

What other stories would you like to see told? 

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ask an Artist: Nancy O'Neil, Looking Forward/Looking Back

Levine Museum is excited to host Looking Forward/Looking Back, an exhibit of the public art to be integrated into the first phase of the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar project. The exhibit of collages by artist Nancy O’Neil is on display now through March 30, 2015. 

Please meet artist Nancy O'Neil

What inspired you to work on such a massive project?

I wasn't afraid to take this on because I had experience with large projects —in 2000 I did a huge glass curtain wall for the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center.  And I had one prior experience with windscreens a couple of years ago in Salt Lake City. Check out my website,

My work is very much about place, so a transit job with lots of stations is great for me.  Each station has its own story to tell.  I get to find out about all the different neighborhoods —history, culture, natural features, etc. And I get to use old maps, which I love. This kind of project provides me with a lot of good material for my collages. It’s the kind of work I like best.

I especially like making unexpected connections and weaving things together.  I have respect for the past, how it affects us, and propels us into the future.

What feelings, thoughts, emotions do you want your artwork to invoke on Charlotte’s riders?

Some of the panels are more emotionally powerful than others but I think every station has something for people to think about. We will have to wait and see.

How was it working with many individuals and their passion for Charlotte’s history?

Everyone I worked with was extremely knowledgable and people were very generous with their time. All of the archives people really went the extra mile for me, and I am grateful.

What challenges did you face creating the artwork?

At times I wished I lived closer —there was an awful lot of research to do long distance!

What can riders expect?

I think people will like the colors and the overall designs. People tend to spend a lot of time looking at the photos and many people are intrigued by the maps and like to study them closely. Based on my recent experience with a series of windscreens I installed in Denver, lots of people will want to know more about what they are looking at.  Once these windscreens are in place I will photograph them and put  a complete Key to all of the imagery and sources on my website so that people can learn more.

What do you think of the new CityLYNX line and the artwork that will be incorporated? Tell us below and share with your friends. 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Ask an Activist: Carla Fuller, Help the Refugees

With National Welcoming Week this week (Sept. 13-21), Levine Museum is reaching out to the Greater Carolina community and asking how we can create a more welcoming environment for all newcomers. 

As part of our Welcoming Week events, Levine Museum spoke with Carla Fuller, who works with Burmese refugees and is making a difference in her own backyard. 

Carla became involved with the refugee community about 6 years ago after four Karen (an ethnic group from Burma) girls moved in with a family from her church. She soon met their friends in Charlotte and continues to visit them frequently. Since she lives a few hours away, the community invites her into their homes to stay with them.  She has come to love their culture, food and most especially their children. 

Although they may not always be able to communicate in English and she has yet to be able to fluently learn their language, communication seems easy. In addition to her new friends, she has been honored to meet the men and women of Charlotte who are dedicated to the refugee community.  Says Carla, “there is a great network of folks who work together to help refugees and I am proud to have come to know them.” Of course, there is always a need for more people and she is always encouraged when she sees someone new get involved. 

Unfortunately, there are people hostile to newcomers and changing demographics. How can we combat this? 

I think as others get to know the refugees personally, they will understand that they are just like us. They have the same wants, needs and concerns.  

When someone first gets involved, it can be hard to find common interests, especially with the language barrier. The refugees understand that it is difficult for us to reach to them and are just thankful we try.

For me, it was taking a family to explore downtown and eat ice cream for the first time that helped us bond.  Six years later, this family has just purchased their first house and they are doing very well.  It is such a joy to have been a part of their lives and share in their journey. Sometimes I forget that in the beginning we couldn't even speak to each other without an interpreter, but now we can have great conversations!

If there is someone wanting to get to know a newcomer, but not sure where to start, I would recommend contacting one of the local organizations. They can put you in touch with a family or individual who would welcome your concern for them.
How can we work to combat immigrant stereotypes?

The same as above.  Get to know them and see that they hard working people coming to America to escape oppression and war. They must learn a new language, a new culture, new health care system and so many other things. They have the same love for their families and are just like us in so many ways.

How can we strengthen the voices of communities that otherwise go unheard?

Reaching out to the community leaders of the various ethnic groups will help make the connection.  Going to meet them in their own communities will give them a level of comfort that otherwise they would not have.  They are still very shy and intimidated by Americans.

How can we teach self-advocacy to those within the immigrant community? 

Working with community leaders to find out what they specifically need and having programs around their schedules would be beneficial.  Drivers’ training is one of the most necessary components to self-sufficiency. There isn't much funding for it, so they are teaching themselves with deadly consequences.  

Ten years from now, how do you envision a more welcoming Charlotte and a reinvented New South?

I would hope there would be many more Americans reaching out to the community.  So many folks go overseas on mission and humanitarian trips when they are here in our own backyards. 

I asked one man why the refugees in the camps are always so excited to see the Americans visit and he said because that is how they think all Americans will be when they come to America.  It gives them hope.  But, then they come here and often they don’t find the kind hearts of the missionaries and humanitarians.  Instead, they are often preyed upon by unethical people.

What does your organization do to celebrate and welcome newcomers to Charlotte? 

When we learn of new arrivals, we put the word out to other refugees.  They know firsthand the struggles that the newcomers face.  They take them food, welcome them and then continue to check in on them and assist in however they can.  In addition, the other Americans who are volunteering in the community will try to bring them clothes, food and other items they may need.  Unfortunately, there are not enough people to call upon and many are stretched thin. 

For more information about Carla and the work that she does, visit her website,

Join the conversation: 
Levine Museum is hosting a Tweetchat on Wednesday, Sept. 17, from noon-1 p.m. on Creating A Welcoming Charlotte.

Follow and participate on Twitter at @LevineMuseum and use the hashtags #WelcomingCLT  #welcomingweek

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Century of Change: Charlotte, Banking and the Federal Reserve

Levine Museum of the New South and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond are pleased to co-host a panel discussion, “A Century of Change: Charlotte, Banking and the Federal Reserve,” on Tuesday, September 16. Matt Martin, the Richmond Fed’s Charlotte regional executive, answers questions about the Fed’s founding 100 years ago and the opening of the Charlotte office in 1927. 

Charlotte was not chosen for a main Fed bank when the Federal Reserve was founded in 1914, so why did the Richmond Fed create an office here in 1927?

After the Federal Reserve Act was signed into law, the next step became where to locate the 12 regional Reserve Banks. A spirited competition began around the country. Charlotte was one of 37 cities that submitted a formal petition for a regional Reserve Bank. At the time it was one of the smallest cities to apply and was not selected.

Instead, Charlotte and the rest of the Carolinas became part of the Richmond Federal Reserve District. Richmond was one of the 12 cities chosen to house a regional Reserve Bank, opening for business on November 16, 1914. Branches around the country began to open, and the Richmond Fed’s Baltimore office started operations in 1918. Although Charlotte did not initially land a regional headquarters, interest in a branch for Charlotte was high. Bankers in both North Carolina and South Carolina led a seven-year campaign to get a branch office, noting Charlotte’s growing importance as a regional financial center and its ideal location for serving both North Carolina and South Carolina. The Richmond Fed looked closely at the issue and agreed with these arguments. The Charlotte office opened on December 1, 1927.

How did the Federal Reserve contribute to the rise of Charlotte as a banking center — what did the opening of a branch office in the city mean?

Loading coins, Charlotte Branch, 1956
Charlotte has long been a banking center, and the decision to open a Federal Reserve branch reflected that reality. By the 1920s, Charlotte had become an important regional banking center supporting key industries like textiles. The banking and business community believed that having a branch office of the Richmond Fed would confirm the growing economic importance of the region, as well as provide support for future growth. After the official announcement that Charlotte would get a branch office, bankers noted that having the branch would increase deposits in Charlotte banks (allowing for more lending in the region), speed up check clearing and other payments, give banks ready access to the discount window (short-term loans to banks that provided more liquidity) and generally promote more commerce in the region.

Bankers and others in the region at the time also noted the symbolic importance of having a branch office in Charlotte. One banker, quoted in the December 1, 1927, Charlotte Observer, said that “Charlotte will be placed in the class of the most important financial centers in the country.” In a sense, getting the branch confirmed that Charlotte was a place of enough financial importance to need one. Confirmation of that notion almost certainly aided further growth in the way that success often leads to more success. Of course, there were other important factors at work in the region, but the opening of the branch provided confirmation those other factors were important.


Matt Martin alongside Hugh McColl, former chairman and CEO of Bank of America; Harvey Gantt, former mayor of Charlotte; and Rick Rothacker, author of Banktown: The Rise and Struggles of Charlotte's Big Banks; will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Museum President Emily Zimmern. Tuesday, September 16, 5:30 pm reception; 6:30 pm discussion. Event is FREE, registration is required. Register at

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kinship and Conflict

Levine Museum of the New South houses many exhibits that foster community connections. One of which, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges is on view through Sept. 14, 2014. In the exhibit, it discusses the not widely known connection between several Jewish refugee professors who came to the U.S. during WWII and ended up teaching at Historically Black Colleges.

By 1939, Germany had already purged itself of Jewish professors, scientists and scholars- many of which came to the U.S. looking for refuge. Some of these immigrants found unexpected positions at historically black colleges in the South, where they struggled with their newfound racist environment. While it might have seemed like an odd pairing, both Black and Jewish communities stood on the common ground of being oppressed figures in society. The relationship between Jewish teachers and African American students blossomed into a kinship fueled by empathy towards what Jews had endured in Europe and what Southern Blacks were going through in the United States.
Bonnie Gurewitsch, curator of the Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow exhibit, had never heard of Jewish refugee scholars teaching at colleges for black students before watching the film. Earlier this year, Gurewitsch told this blog about the challenges that came along with curating this exhibit:

Outlining a story that would accurately reflect the experiences of the refugee scholars and the black students, then finding the artifacts that would illustrate the main points of that story, and setting the story in the three-dimensional setting of an exhibition. We decided to create parallel background areas, one for the scholars' backgrounds and their immigration to the US, and a second for the background of the students and their decisions to go to college. We brought the two story strands together in the central section of the exhibition-the encounter, and showed the effects of the encounter on both groups.”


In the Charlotte community, there is a history of kinship between the Black and Jewish
communities. During the Civil Rights Movement, many Jewish were able to understand what it was like to be the “other.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama and was quoted saying, “I was praying with my feet.” Harry Golden, longtime Charlotte resident and publisher of The Carolina Israelite, was known for his commentary on race relations in the South.


In order to better understand how Black-Jewish relations had impact on Charlotte and beyond, Levine Museum is hosting Kinship & Conflict: Black/Jewish Relations, a panel conversation featuring Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth-El, and Dr. Ronald Carter of Johnson C. Smith University. Moderated by Jackie Fishman, the program begins at 7 p.m. on today, and is free to attend. Reservations are requested. 

Kinship & Conflict: Black/Jewish Relations
Today at 7:00 p.m.
A conversation with Rabbi Judy Schindler, Temple Beth-El, and Dr. Ronald Carter, Johnson C. Smith University, moderated by Jackie Fishman.
Free to attend. Reservations requested. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

History ACTIVE 2014: Connecting the Carolinas to the Diaspora

From July 14-16, Levine Museum took twelve students to Charleston, South Carolina, to complement their week-long intensive on the African Diaspora and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  Throughout the trip, students were asked to reflect upon the histories that they learned and connect them to their own lived experiences as well as think critically about current social issues.

While Charleston is often associated with Southern hospitality and its tourism, at one point this city was the largest slave port in the United States.  Students visited historical sites such as the Old Slave Mart Museum and Magnolia Plantation’s slave cabins where they were exposed to the idea of the African Diaspora and the spread of African culture in the Americas.  As students embraced a side of history that is not often taught in schools, they were forced to explore their own identities and personally connect to the stories shared with them.

Students were also pushed to challenge traditional history and how it has been told.  For example, many tour guides compared Sullivan’s Island to Ellis Island, since 40% of the enslaved people brought to the U.S. were first brought to Sullivan’s Island.  While Sullivan’s Island was a harbor for the African Diaspora, students recognized the discrepancy in comparing voluntary migration to the involuntary movement of a people.

Additionally, while on Sullivan’s Island, students visited Fort Moultrie, which neighbored the “pest houses” –places of quarantine where the enslaved were first brought to make sure they were free from communicable diseases.  At Fort Moultrie, students recognized the irony in the juxtaposition of a pest house and a church.

Many students were surprised at how much of our culture today originates from the African slave trade, yet is not credited.  Students were able to explore music, dance, food, language and local history in both Charleston, as they were in Charlotte, in order to get a better understanding of the impact of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  Participants met with local community members who shared their talents, skills and knowledge to help students better understand the African influence on the Carolinas today.

As participant Victoria Banks stated, “Africa is a book no one knows we’re reading.”
We hope all of the students will continue to recognize and credit untold histories and compel others to connect their own identities to the world around them.

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Did you know Charleston was the largest slave port in the United States? Have you visited any of these historical places?