Sunday, December 30, 2012

Empathy…Quilting a Collective Future

Today is the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the seven-day African American cultural celebration which recognizes the living practices that inspired African ancestors in America's racially-rigid social and economic structure. Each day, Kwanzaa observers act within one principle that ranges from unity to collective empowerment to faith. The fifth principle is "nia" or purpose. This is a fitting context to present our final blog post for the Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America exhibit.

This community response quilt has grown throughout the exhibition
and features comments from visitors about how they will make a
difference in Charlotte and beyond.
When we began working toward bringing Without Sanctuary, we wanted to include perspectives and suggestions from the community at large. To do so, we gathered a diverse set of participants from a range of backgrounds and organizations in several community listening sessions over a two month period. Our purpose: to get input on how they wanted us to help present this hard history of lynching and connect it to issues that still resonate today.

Afterward, the education team reviewed the transcripts and input from these listening sessions.

Three over-arching themes and many programmatic suggestions emerged from the sessions. In particular:

1.) Present the historic racial landscapes. As we acted on this purpose, it included partnering with UNC Charlotte's Center for the Study of the New South which held its Conference on Lynching in October.
2.) Acknowledge the emotional echoes. The museum used this theme as a way to bring in the artistic and personal connections to the history of lynching. We began with the artistic interpretations of John Love (featured in the exhibit) as well as the opening ceremony comprised with the help of Donell Stines, the band A Sign of the Times, dancer Donald Colson and spoken word artist/producer Quentin "Q" Talley who each brought a unique point of view to the public reception.
3.) Connect with other institutions and organizations exploring current social sanctuary such as the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture and the Mint Museum of Art, both of which joined us to coordinate the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring students and the community to see Without Sanctuary, the Gantt's America: I AM and the Mint's Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial exhibits the only weekend all three exhibits were still up. Mecklenburg Ministries and Theatre Charlotte were also identified as early partners.

For months leading up to and throughout the Without Sanctuary exhibit, we used the three themes to inform our programmatic scope. Ultimately, we collaborated with many more entities in the Charlotte community from educational groups to media outlets, social clubs and nonprofit organizations to large corporate sponsors.
In the end, the themes have allowed the exhibit to generate in our community a collective sense of purpose and wide-ranging call to action that hit at both the personal and organizational levels.
Today, Sunday, Dec. 30, at 4 p.m. the museum will host a closing ceremony for Without Sanctuary. The Sycamore Project will present "Blood on the Field" an artistic closing featuring dancers, drummers as well as candle-lighting ceremony.

Join us this afternoon as we make one final addition to our Without Sanctuary offerings and conclude in a way that links back to our original purpose and reminds the community to consider its own purpose going forward.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Southern Tradition: Honor, Integrity, and Courage to Call Ourselves Southerners

A Painful Chapter in Southern and American History

This historic collection of postcards and photos, painstakingly gathered over the course of many years by James Allen and John Littlefield, demonstrates a cultural awareness and acceptance of the practice of lynching from the 1890s to 1950s that is hard to fathom today. Images--most of them extremely graphic in content--were captured, and then traded as souvenirs. Lives lost during this era were unacknowledged by much of society for quite a long time. Indeed, the silence surrounding these stories is made even more appalling by an unwillingness and resistance to see or name this history as a violation of human dignity. 
Throughout Without Sanctuary, we ask visitors to share their reflections.

When asked "Do the echoes of lynchings still remain in these regions? What personal connection could you have to lynching in your life?", one of our most powerful responses was the following:

Do you agree with this statement?  

Perhaps, the most passionate submissions came in response to the question "Who among us is without sanctuary today?" This question asks us to build our future on the lessons learned from the past. The answer to this question, one of which is shown below, varied greatly from guest to guest.

This is memory made more. This is a call to bear witness and halt the continuing and fatal impact of living without sanctuary. It takes courage to confront history and to learn from it…

How do you connect?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Charlotte...Bound in Yes!

A picture is worth more than a thousand words.

It can elicit a thousand emotions.
A thousand questions.
A thousand connections.

Over the next several days we will use the blog and Facebook to explore how Charlotte has used the pictures in the exhibit Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America to make those connections to history and find relevance for our lives today.  With help from John Love, a multidisciplinary artist, Levine Museum provided an interactive space to connect to each visitor: asking tough questions in the exhibition and in dialogue.

Pictured is opening night for Without Sanctuary and Love’s piece, entitled, “Bound in Yes.”  The instructions were clear, simply tell us what is your "Yes"?
From the Artist Statement:  There is no wrong way to feel however there can be an affirming way to respond.  As we sit in the seat of historical perspective and cozy up to even the prickliest of privileges the passage of time enables, the question of what does one do with all this information, knowledge, and weight looms ominous.  In the face of the human behavior that fueled/fuels the atrocities depicted in WITHOUT SANCTUARY, Bound in Yes asks you to share what this horrifying and resounding expression of “no” inspires you to affirm, do, construct, build, facilitate, and say yes to.  Bound in Yes asks, “What is your Yes?”                          ~ John W. Love, Jr. 

Our guests responded--writing out their affirmations and adding to the white rocking chair tag by tag until…

The final stages of the chair affirm that Charlotte and the community have lots to say "Yes" to, including taking on this difficult history and letting the pictures speak to them.

How did the images inside Without Sanctuary speak to you?
What are you left saying "Yes" to?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Interpretation of Lynching

When African American singer, Billie Holiday, performed the song “Strange Fruit”, many were moved by its metaphorical depiction of a phenomenon that was all too real but rarely openly discussed. The topic of lynching had been present in the nation’s collective consciousness for some time; poems and short stories had been written on the topic for decades.  However, Holiday’s haunting rendition especially struck a chord. Written by a Jewish schoolteacher named Abel Meeropol in the 1930s, the song still resonates with listeners today. Listen for yourself:

Learn the story behind the song and more about Abel Meeropol here:

What do you think?  How does this song help you understand the issues related to lynching?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Without Sanctuary

Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America,  is a collection of photographs and postcards documenting dozens of lynchings and other killings carried out by lynch mobs.

Upon the opening of the exhibit, guests are invited to participate in a cross-cultural experience.  While Without Sanctuary actually opens Saturday, September 29th, Levine Museum of the New South will hold an opening reception on Tuesday October 2nd.  Visitors may enjoy interpretive music, dance, and theatrical offerings courtesy of Charlotte’s artistic community.  Along with these performances, scholars educated in the history of lynching will be present to provide insight into this touchy subject.

What is lynching?
The NAACP’s definition of lynching is as follows:

·         1) There must be evidence that someone was killed;
·         2) The killing must have occurred illegally;
·         3) Three or more persons must have taken part in the killing; and
·         4) The killers must have claimed to be serving justice or tradition.

“Whenever society treats a people as if they have no rights or dignity or worth… they are being lynched covertly.  Whenever people are denied jobs, health care, housing, and the basic necessities of life, they are being lynched.  There are a lot of ways to lynch a people.  Whenever a people cry out to be recognized as human beings and the society ignores them, they are being lynched.”- 

    James H. Cone (Theologian at Union Theological Seminary)

How would you define “Lynching”?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For the Community

While many people ask “Why showcase that picture?” thinking we are promoting the Klan and its message, it is quite the opposite. The museum wanted to remain true to the history of the South, even the most disturbing parts so we can reflect with the community on how far we have come. The centuries of racial divide, the social customs that allowed it, and the story of segregation at its peak, all are evidenced in this image. But so is the realization that we cannot educate the youngest among us with such a slender understanding of the humanity we all share. 

That’s why the picture joined the othersAnd why, come September 29th, 2012, we’ll be opening Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. It, too, looks at a painful chapter in American and Southern history while challenging our viewers to make sure we aren’t leaving neighbors and community members without the same legal, social, and personal refuge today.


This is the history that we strive to educate others on.  It need not be forgotten.  This is why we continue today in a changed world, because of the people who fought against the bigotry of others.  The picture of the little girl is coming down from the building. For many the lone child, among a sea of adults in white robes, resonates.

A few comments from the community about this image...


"This photo tells me about parenthood.  How our personal views and beliefs are directly passed to our children and how only through the courage of those same children is an improved society forged."

"My mother used to tell me about the Klan rallies in Union, South Carolina when she was a little girl.  She said that everybody could tell who was under the robes, because everyone in town only owned one pair of shoes."

"Like the Little girl in Schindler's List." (A film about the Holocaust during World War II)

The 11 images that made up the Summer Virtual Series have been the face of Levine Museum of the New South for many years and they will now retire to their new homes and new images will go up.

Thank you for continuing to read the blog and learn the history of the images.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why this image?

As we come to the end of the Virtual Series, we at last come to what many consider our most striking but controversial image.  A bit of context: The process that went into choosing each picture for the fa├žade was one of telling a story. There were more than a dozen pictures to choose from, and each one selected told a piece of the South’s rich history and its spirit of reinvention. We looked at the early trolley systems, mill strikes, booming businesses, growing diverse cultures, significant figures, and much more to reveal the progress and pain that went into creating the New South.  Some images were more provocative than others, but their stories were important to tell.

For this week, as we conclude our Summer Virtual Series, we want to take a moment to address our community.  This week’s image, although it has been a part of the building with the rest of the pictures, has been a continuing item of concern within the community. It is one that causes many people to ask “Why would you put something like that on the building?” The short answer is that the museum is dedicated to telling the history of the South-- the good and the bad.  

The image of a little girl at a Ku Klux Klan rally has been a point of apprehension or contention for many people who come to the museum or who are just passing by. As we continue to tell the stories that these images hold, we also want to show the community that we were listening to your thoughts about this particular image. We know the image of the Klan evokes strong emotions but with our dedication to telling the history as true and complete as it is, this is another piece of the puzzle.

Many people know the distinctive white hoods and dress of the Ku Klux Klan, but what often goes untold are the origins and early purposes of the KKK. After the Civil War, all men—black or white, rich or poor—had the right to vote.  As governments started showing greater racial and economic diversity because of the new voters, wealthy landowners, who controlled most of the government previously, began losing control rapidly. A system of terror started to play out.  The Ku Klux Klan was created and their early targets of terror were the poor white and black voters. Secret groups like the KKK used threats, beatings and murder to scare new voters. This helped more affluent whites start to get their positions back in government, and political power remained under their influence until after the Civil Rights Movement. 

Klan power peaked in North and South Carolina around 1870 but KKK membership continued to grow in times of racial or economic conflict, including the 1920s and during the Civil Rights Movement when KKK would become the symbol of racial injustice, intolerance and white supremacy.

It was not uncommon for entire families to go to Klan rallies at times, so it was not unfamiliar to see children present. From an early age, the ideas of the Klan would be instilled into the minds of young children, the parents hoping it will continue into their adult life.  Today the Klan still exists with the same ideas, but nowhere near the strength of the pre-civil rights era.

We tell this story in our main exhibit Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers at the museum making it a major factor for choosing the striking picture of the little girl at the rally.  

The picture of the lone girl resonates: So what do you say about this photo?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fighting for Justice and the end of Plessy v. Ferguson

Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine was a schoolteacher in Summerton, SC. He saw how the students in his school were consistently underrepresented. He requested there be a bus for black students, making it more convenient for the children to get to school, but was denied. With his standing in the school community, he hoped that he would be able to change system. Because he was denied by the school board, he bought a bus for the children at his school, spending his own money. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep it due to the expenses. He was stuck knowing the laws set in place discriminated against African Americans, but there seemed to be little he could do, even with his standing in the community.

In a grassroots fashion, and with DeLaine's support, Levi Pearson, a black mother whose children walked daily to the school, challenged the law in court. In 1951, the official challenge of the separate but equal court ruling was heard in Charleston, SC. The court case Briggs v. Elliot made it to the Supreme Courts but was pushed to lower courts after the hearing.  

The DeLaine's at their home after the fire.
Many people who were involved in the court cases lost their jobs or were harassed in their community due to the nature of the case. Reverend DeLaine's house was burned to the ground. Eventually in 1954 The Supreme Court would hear the case Brown v.s. Board of Education, which combined five court cases to address the issue of separate but equal; Briggs v. Elliot being one of those five. The court case was won, overthrowing the separate but equal national court ruling established by Plessy v. Ferguson. Thurgood Marshall was the attorney who successfully argued for the court case. The decision to use the Topeka Kansas Board of Education court case, was in hopes to show the nation that Rev. DeLain's case, and the discrimination against black people, was not just a southern problem. The case showed that segregation was a nation wide issue, and by official law and help from Rev. DeLaine, was made illegal.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rev. J.A. DeLaine- His story is History

Much of the civil rights movement cried for peace and equality on all levels- especially with the children of this era. Individuals like Reverend J.A. DeLaine did just that!
(Photo of J.A. DeLaine; courtesy of

Living with other blacks in a rural part of South Carolina, he saw the injustices that children faced with the segregated bus systems. These injustices fueled the fire that would soon leave a mark on the Supreme Courts records forever.

Segregated Bus circa 1950 (Image source: New Raleigh) 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Richard Petty: the King.

A young and happy Richard Petty, with his car in the 1960s.   
Born in Level Cross North Carolina, Richard Petty was a second generation race car driver. His father was a driver, winning the Dayton 500 in 1959.

RIchard Petty (left.)
During the 1960s, Richard’s racing career took off. Because of his ability to seemingly break any record and win hundreds of the races he competed in, it got Richard the nickname "The King."

"The King" in his early racing days. 
Richard started more races, won more races, and made more money than any other stock car driver in history.
Petty's Plymouth Barracuda dragracer.
Petty after his win at Daytona in 1979.
After his retirement, he went into commentating for a few seasons and was very successful. He then went on to opening his own motorsports company. Petty Enterprises opened and was operated by the Petty family until 2008 when it was purchased by Gillet-Evernham Motorsports and renamed Richard Petty Motorsports. It would change hands again, but it never diminished the reputation of the team. 

The Richard Petty Motorsports logo.
Richard Petty with his famous hat and shades!  One Facebook Fan stated "He even wears his hat into his doctors' offices. Only those doing procedures see him without it!"
Today Richard Petty is a NASCAR Hall of Famer. He also speaks out for many charities and sponsors.
The Victory Junction camp logo.
One of the major charities supported by Richard Petty is Victory Junction. Adam Petty, Richard's grandson, had the idea of this camp after visiting a similar camp. When Adam was killed in a crash during a practice run, his mother and father, Kyle and Pattie, took over the idea and transformed it into Victory Junction. Richard Petty was a co- founder of this organization, and donated the land that the camp resides on.

Thanks for the comments and posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as for continuing to follow the blog.

If you would like to know more information about Richard Petty or the charities he sponsors, check out the following links!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The sport that came from Prohibition.

Most sports are created out of fun, but NASCAR was created out of the necessity of alcohol.

Prohibition banned the sale of alcohol, posing obvious problems for owners of bars and taverns. In retaliation to this law, many illegal bars opened up in hidden, obscure locations. 

During the Prohibition era, a time when the sell and consumption of alcohol was illegal, men and sometimes women still wanted their spirits. The idea of Prohibition was not recieved lightly, especially in the South. 

Prohibition generated a large number of protests. 
People were not going to stop drinking, even if they had to create the alcohol themselves. Moonshine became a business and livelihood of the people who would take the risks of brewing their own drinks. Proving to be extremely profitable, distillers would smuggle moonshine all throughout the South. 
Illegal moonshine manufactured in underground distilleries. 
In order to evade getting caught by the police, moonshiners would modify their cars, lowering their back ends, and would speed off in the eventual pursuit. If they got caught by the police, there went the money in order to feed their families. 

An example of a "moonshiner's" car.
The exhilaration of racing away from trouble, turned into fun. Eventually the people with their modified cars would race each other, but it was still a necessity to get away from the police. After Prohibition was deemed unconstitutional, alcohol was back to its original legal standing, but the idea of racing the modified cars was still appealing. Racing became a hobby and sport that would stand the test of time.

A race from the early days of NASCAR.
Check out the blog to see more about what came of racing!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Student protest, pickets and "Stop the War!"

This week's image deals with protests to the Vietnam War, right here in Charlotte, NC. 

The Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements provided models for the women's movement." Barbara Ferguson, Vietnam Protest Rally, Freedom Park 1969.
Many marginalized movements fed off of each other in the mid to late 1900s, hoping to achieve many rights which groups of people did not originally have. Protests such as these were held, usually with youths and college students, to get the points of equality across to the public. With the start of the Vietnam War in 1965, students, vets, men, women, black, and white started to shout "Stop the War."

Parades and gatherings were valuable tools to protest the war. 
American's did not see why the war was important for the US to be involved, and were tired of sending their men to a fight that was not theirs. Many times this was a chance for women to stand up for what they believed in because they were the mothers, wives, and daughters of the men who were getting sent and killed.

Most Vietnam protest signs would say things like "Stop the War," or some variation of it, but the sign held by the woman on the right says "No V.C. (Viet Cong) Ever Called Me N*gger." This is a quote from a famous speech made by Cassius Clay, who later became known as Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali. 
Ali was a prize-winning US boxer and an opponent of the war. This was directly due to his beliefs with the Nation of Islam, which was also known as The Black Muslims group. Ali said he would not fight in the Vietnam war after being drafted, because his faith doesn't tell members to fight in wars not declared by Allah or The Messenger. Ali said this quote to show that he had no problem with VietCongs, but his problem is with those in the US that call him n*gger.

Needless to say, this time was a hotbed of political action from women, religious, and race leaders alike.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It all starts with just one voice, just one protest...

Sometimes even the most unassuming people might be partly responsible for changing the world. Look at the following photo, one of this week's images:

In it, you see two young women in the very front. In the background, you see a collection of diverse students, all from different races and backgrounds. Unanimous, though, is their collective unhappiness: this group is actively participating in a protest against the Vietnam War. Due to protests like the one documented above, as well as many exterior factors, the Vietnam War ended prematurely with a U.S. pullout in 1975. 

For more information on this image and the backstory associated with it, please check back in a day or two. 

Thank you for your attention. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Loray Mill: Textiles, strikes and worker's rights.

Good morning! Today's blog post will take you to Gastonia, a town just West of Charlotte, NC. Once there, we'll talk about an event that was crucial to both North Carolina and United States history, specifically in regards to worker's rights—the Loray Mill Strike in 1929.

Gastonia, NC.
In order to make as much money as possible, mill owners adopted a “stretch-out” policy towards their workers. In other words, mill owners reduced workers wages while increasing their responsibilities. Mill workers were often denied restroom and water breaks, and were expected to work near nonstop to reduce costs for the mill owners. Obviously, mill workers were very angry—they were being denied basic rights. 

The Loray Mill as it appeared in the early 1900s. 
Sympathizing with the problems of the average mill worker, the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU), a communist labor party, began to reach out to oppressed workers. Fred Beal, a representative of the NTWU, recognized the large number of unhappy workers in the small North Carolina town of Gastonia, and began working heavily in the region.

In March of 1929, the NTWU held its first public meeting in Gastonia, during which the union’s leadership began urging workers to object and stand firm. The meeting was very successful, as all of the workers in attendance voted to strike immediately. This plan began on April 1, 1929, when 1,800 workers from the Loray Mill in Gastonia walked away from their workplace to protest unworkable conditions. The striking workers demanded a minimum wage, the end of the stretch-out system, as well as the recognition of unions by mill owners.

This book was published by the National Textile Worker's Union in 1929. It was intended to raise support for the NTWU's cause and describes the conditions that caused the strike and the "terror" that followed afterwards. 
Irritated at their requests, mill owners ordered workers to vacate mill-owned housing, leaving protesters angry and defensive, as well as homeless. North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner recognized tensions and deployed 250 National Guard troops to the Mill to maintain order. In the following months, the strike escalated, resulting in many acts of violence and continued resistance. The strike lasted until September of 1929, but was not a success.

This week's image: the Loray Mill Strike.
Violently suppressed by the government, this strike paved the way for the formation of the United Textile Workers. This union took many years to form yet, once organized, fought to protect the interests of mill workers.

Much like how a small rockslide can start an avalanche, this strike had significant consequences for the South and the United States, as a whole.

Obviously, this mill played a very important role in Southern history; just what happened to it?

The Loray Mill as it stands today. 
In the 1930s, the Loray Mill was sold and repurposed, transforming into a tire factory. Instead of spinning cotton, the Mill now spun tire cord. In the 1990s, though, its future became uncertain. Firestone Tire Company, the previous owner, built a new manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, a nearby town. Firestone donated the building to a historic preservation society, but no buyer could be found. The building continually set vacant until a plan was developed and put into action this past June.

The future Loray Mill.
Camden Development Partners, a group based in Atlanta, has received a financial commitment to begin the Loray Mill Project. This project, depicted above, will create 190 loft apartments and over 79,000 square feet of commercial space. Residents in Gastonia hope that this will become a centerpiece to Western Gastonia, reviving the previously-struggling district. 

The first phase of this project is schedule to be completed by late 2013.

The Loray Mill interior presently. Imagine the possibilities!
For more information, here are two links to respective news articles about this new project:

1.) An article from the Charlotte Observer: 

2.) An article from WBTV: