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? 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

History ACTIVE 2014: the African Diaspora and the Americas Today

From June 23-27, 2014, the Museum hosted HistoryACTIVE, its 5-day summer learning institute for students looking to further their knowledge on key historical aspects. This year, HistoryACTIVE focused on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the African Diaspora, encouraging students to reflect and think upon how the African Diaspora impacts the Americas today. 

Each day the students were presented with information on different aspects of the African Diaspora including an introduction to slavery and the diaspora that featured a presentation from Amad Shakur, director of the Center for the African Diaspora, on Monday, June 23. On Tuesday, students looked at the history and Africanity of music with a drumming session from the McCrorey YMCA senior drummers, a field trip to the Latibah Collard Green Museum, and a learning concert from Toni Tupponce and A Sign of the Times. Wednesday was designated as a food and art day including a cooking demonstration with Mert’s Heart and Soul owner James Bazzelle and a visit to the Mint Museum of Art on Randolph followed by a mask-making activity with Catherine Courtlandt-McElvane. Thursday’s activities rounded out the week of learning with dance sessions from LaTanya Johnson of The Sycamore Project and presentations from Charlotte Capoeira and S and A Peruvian dancers. 

From the knowledge they gained throughout the week, the students created a showcase on Friday to celebrate what they learned and the connections they made.

All of the students had presentations that showed how they saw Africa in their daily lives. Participant Anna Azaglo said, “From History ACTIVE I have learned that most things come from Africa. The art I see, the beats I hear, and the dances I do. I see Africa’s influence in everyday things that most people do not see. Africa is everywhere and it has opened my eyes.”

When Anna first showed up at the Levine Museum of the New South to participate in the HistoryACTIVE program, she was very quiet and reserved. By Friday, for her showcase, she blossomed and had everyone in the room on their feet and dancing the “Azonto,” a contemporary Ghanaian dance, and having a good time. Another 12 students, along with Anna, presented showcases that were all unique, informative and fun in their own way.

The fun does not stop there. HistoryACTIVE students will have a chance to partake in a 3-day long bus trip to Charleston, South Carolina from July 14-16. In Charleston, the students will see first-hand how the African Diaspora affected the South. Activities will include tours of plantations, historic sites and museums, and the S.C. Sea Islands

It’s just one more extension of the learning and the reason Anna has already signed up to take the trip, “HistoryACTIVE is a program that will teach you and open your eyes, so you can see the real world.”

written by Shantel Johnson, History ACTIVE Intern

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Look Back: Charlotte and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- Part II

Our series "A Look Back: Charlotte and the Civil Rights Act of 1964" continues.

Three desegregation actions in our area during the early 1960s did make national headlines. Sit-ins blossomed in Charlotte and nearby cities during 1960 - 61.  In spring 1963, A & T University student Jesse Jackson organized relentless marches against segregated movie theaters and other public accommodations in the Greensboro area.  In May 1963 came the voluntary desegregation of Charlotte’s upscale restaurants. Together those important initiatives set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Black college students sat down at the segregated lunch counter of the Woolworths store in downtown Greensboro on February 1, 1960.  One of the original four, Franklin McCain, went on live most of his life in Charlotte, passing away in 2013. The sit-in strategy quickly spread other Carolina towns with black colleges. Johnson C. Smith University students led in part by Charles Jones held one of the biggest sit-ins, with as many as 200 participants.  In nearby Rock Hill, sit-in activists from Friendship College pioneered the “jail, no bail” technique, making headlines as they braved arrest and did hard labor at the county prison.

The sit-ins opened most lunch counters but segregation remained in other public places.  In 1963, charismatic student Jesse Jackson at NC A & T University organized mass protests in Greensboro and nearby cities.  As hundreds of students picketed movie theaters week after week, it became clear to America that this issue would not go away.

Events in Charlotte gave hope that change could come peacefully.  In response to a march by black dentist Dr. Reginald Hawkins and Johnson C. Smith University students, Mayor Stan Brookshire worked with the Chamber of Commerce to arrange for black and white businessmen to go two-by-two to eat together at the city’s elite restaurants.  By the end of May 1963, desegregation was a reality. The New York Times and other national press applauded.

The stage was set for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  On June 20, 1963 the Act was introduced in the US House.  Despite long and concerted resistance by many white Southern legislators, it made its way thru the House then the Senate over the next year.  President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964!

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Would sit-ins be as effective today? Would you participate in a sit-in? 

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Look Back: Charlotte and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- Part I

July 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the historical Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Charlotte area played a huge role from the beginning. In this two-part series our Dr. Tom takes a look back on Charlotte's impact in the Civil Rights movement and the actions that lead to the passing of this landmark legislative bill.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act remade the South and America.  The law mandated the end of segregation in “public accommodations”: restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, and more. Congress did not simply swoop down and declare this new order.  Civil Rights activists fought long and hard to put equality on the nation’s agenda. Key actions in that struggle took place right here in Charlotte and the Carolinas.  As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, enacted July 2, 1964, it is a good time to share some of those stories.

Since the Plessy v Ferguson decision by the Supreme Court in 1896, racial segregation had been the law of the land.  Plessy held that separate accommodations on trains and in railroad stations, and by extension anywhere else, were OK … as long as they were “separate but equal.”  In reality, things were definitely separate but seldom if ever equal. Segregation was blatant south of the Mason Dixon Line but most communities outside Dixie also had formal or informal “color lines” separating urban areas and businesses into white and black categories.

In Charlotte, City Hall had “white” and “colored” water fountains.  Those actual signs are on display in the Museum's COTTON FIELDS TO SKYSCRAPERS exhibition.  Also at the Museum you can see a re-creation of the Carolina Theater. It admitted only whites; black people went to the Lincoln Theater which seldom showed first-run films. When Independence Park opened in 1903, city law barred black people with the exception of black nannies who brought white children to play.  Such regulations carried over even to the city-owned golf course at Revolution Park, when black youngsters could be caddies but could not play.  One caddie, Charlie Sifford, snuck in at night and perfected his game to the point that he went pro, the first African American on the PGA Tour.

Black people challenged segregation from the beginning.  When North Carolina started requiring African Americans to sit at the back of streetcars in 1906, Charlotte ministers led a boycott, unsuccessfully.  That’s long before Rosa Parks and the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956.  Another “before Rosa” action happened at Revolution Park golf course. African American doctors, lawyers and other professionals in Charlotte wanted to play golf.  In 1951 they sued to desegregate the park.  The lawsuit meandered through the courts for years, eventually winning in the late 1950s.  If it had been speedily decided, we’d be reading about it in national history books today.

A Look Back: Charlotte and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 continues tomorrow...

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Guest Blogger: Kevin Vandiver, Charlotte Freedom School Partners

The current Faces of Freedom Summer photo exhibit looks back at the historic 1964 efforts by college students to register African American voters in Mississippi. As part of that project, activists organized Freedom Schools to awaken African American youth to black history and their rights as citizens. Today a new generation of Freedom Schools aims to help young people turn summers into a time of scholarly advancement. Our guest blogger, Kevin Vandiver works as the Development Coordinator for Charlotte Freedom School Partners

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which was a voting initiative for marginalized African Americans.  In addition to galvanizing the people to register to vote, there were about 30-40 Freedom Schools in ‘64, which were started to provide African Americans with an education that they were not receiving in the public school system. The actions taken to educate the surrounding communities was a method that advocates used to go on the offensive against oppression:  Education was a key to Freedom.   Whether it was in a classroom, church basement, or on someone’s front stoop, class was in session!  Taught by college students and other volunteers, the Freedom School students were taught black history and culture, math, and character-building.   The ages of the attendees ranged from small children to the very elderly—with the average age being about 15 years of age.  In 1964, over 3000 people attended the Freedom Schools in Mississippi.  

When we fast-forward 50 years to 2014, we understand that while there has been great change, that there are still miles to go.  In the day when there are still educational inequities, thousands of children not reading by third grade, and the billion-dollar cradle to prison pipeline, there is a continued need education and empowerment to achieve the potential with which every child is born. 50 years later, we can say that the ball has not been dropped.  The legacy of Freedom Summer of ’64 is very alive today!

We believe that Freedom School Partners works with many partners and community members to put children on a path of success, and there is room for all to continue in this work that began so long ago. 

This new education that Freedom School Partners endeavors to offer through its programming builds the character of scholars and interns alike, rebuilds spirits, brings together communities of hope, support, and fosters inter-generational leadership, helping us all to know that We Can—and Must—Make a Difference!  Our efforts to bring about this new education have empowered 4000 Children and 400 college students since its first Freedom School in Charlotte, in 2004. 

I am a part of this work—serving as a Development Coordinator.  I hope to spread the word and garner support for this great movement.  Our work is arduous, but it is good work—and it will change the face of our world.

Freedom School Partners join in solidarity with Ella Baker, who said, “We who believe in Freedom cannot rest until it comes!

How has public education changed in the last 50 years? Leave your opinion below or on our Facebook page. 

Freedom Summer/Freedom Schools, Then and Now reception, exhibit viewing and discussion will feature Charlotte Civil Rights activist J. Charles Jones and retired Charlotte Observer journalist Lew Powell. Join us Wednesday, May 28 at 6 pm. RSVP: Julie Attilus at or 704.371.4922.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ask a Curator: Bonnie Gurewitsch, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow Part Two

Today, we continue our two-part interview with Bonnie Gurewitsch, the curator of our new exhibit, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges. You can read part one here.

What would you like visitors to take away after viewing the exhibit?

My own experience of studying with a black professor at Brooklyn College in 1961-1962 was a highlight of my undergraduate experience. It was my first encounter with a black scholar, and it opened my eyes to the encounter between cultures and the pre-conceived notions people can have about each other. I saw how this played out in the Beyond Swastika story. I would hope that visitors would take away the lesson that the universal values of equality, fairness and kindness are applicable to all people.

How can the experiences of those profiled in the exhibit become lessons for present day students?

The experience of the scholars-immigration and integration into a new society-will resonate with many visitors who are themselves new Americans. Visitors might identify with the strong motivations of the students, who came from backgrounds that were deprived of material things but not of aspirations and the values of hard work. That two such different groups could come together to share experiences, skills, and knowledge and create an integrated world of mutual appreciation on campus, is a model of peaceful co-existence that would be useful today.

About Bonnie Gurewitsch
Bonnie Gurewitsch recently retired as an Archivist and Curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York City. She has been a Holocaust educator and oral historian for more than 40 years, Ms. Gurewitsch was a pioneer in the effort to develop a systematic approach to recording and cataloging Holocaust oral history. Ms. Gurewitsch lectures frequently and has served as consultant to several scholarly and educational projects, including the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg. 


Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow tells the compelling but little known story of Jewish professors who fled Nazi Germany during WWII, came to America and found teaching positions at historically black colleges and universities in the South. There they came face to face with the absurdities of a rigidly segregated Jim Crow society.

Discover the connections and encounters between these refugee scholars and their students, and their great impact on each other, the Civil Rights Movement, and American society.

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges is on display now through September 14. 

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ask a Curator: Bonnie Gurewitsch, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow Part One

At Levine Museum of the New South, we love sharing history with compelling, often surprising stories that help people connect with the past and each other. The new exhibit, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refuge Scholars at Black Colleges, does exactly that. 

The exhibit was inspired by Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb's landmark book From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges and curated by Bonnie Gurewitsch, a recently retired Archivist and Curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York City. We had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Gurewitsch for our "Ask a Curator" series. Here's Part One and be sure to visit the Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow exhibit on display now through September 14.

What was your first reaction to the story behind "Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow?"

My first exposure to the story was the film "From Swastika to Jim Crow", by Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler. It was offered to the Museum of Jewish Heritage as a public program. I was among the staff members who previewed it. I was fascinated. I had never heard of Jewish refugee scholars teaching at colleges for black students. When Steven Fischler offered to provide us with contact information and the research notes he had collected during the making of the film, we agreed that we should work on telling this story in exhibit form.

As a curator, what challenges did you face during the curatorial process?

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.

What have you discovered during your curation of this exhibit? 

In the course of researching the topic, I discovered that the story is more nuanced than it seemed at first glance. Jewish refugee scholars were not generally welcomed at American colleges and universities. Refugee scholars had a very difficult time finding teaching positions; some took interim jobs just to support themselves, such as Prof. Fales and his wife. Teaching at historically black colleges may not have been their first choice, but it was often the only job available. The scholars knew as little about the students and their culture as the students knew about the professors and their background. There was a learning process of getting to know each other. 


Tomorrow read more about the curation of Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refuge Scholars at Black Colleges in Part Two. 

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ask an Author: Ed Williams Author of Liberating Dixie

On Monday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m., Ed Williams will discuss new book Liberating Dixie during our New South for the New Southerner series.  He'll join our staff historian Dr. Tom Hanchett for a wide-ranging conversation remembering notable Carolina characters, recalling Civil Rights history and contemplating the changing South.  Please meet Author and Journalist Ed Williams

Tell us about the book.

Liberating Dixie is a collection of writings from my 50 years as a Southern newspaperman. The characters range from Jesses Helms to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, with Bill Clinton, Ross Barnett and William Faulkner’s cow also making appearances.  The topics amount to a panorama of Southern life – politics, religion, race, gay rights, the arts, school  reform, college sports, the joys and challenges of family life, as well as Ed Williams’s rules for living. 

Tell about your experiences in the South.

I grew up in the border south, right on the Missouri-Arkansas line about 650 miles west of here. It's cotton country, flat and fertile from eons of flooding from nearby Mississippi River. When I went off to the University of Mississippi in 1960, I felt right at home in every way except one: I thought the Civil War had ended a century before. Many Mississippians didn't.

In the early 1960s Mississippi was celebrating the centennial of that war, and Gov. Ross Barnett was going to rallies clad in a Confederate officer's uniform and telling rapt audiences that their forefathers had fought for states' rights a century earlier and it was their turn to do it now. The state's right he had in mind was preservation of the Mississippi way of life, which included keeping the state segregated and its black residents subservient. Even at that early age it seemed to me unreasonable to think a state could exclude 40 percent of its population from the rights of citizenship, but to Gov. Barnett, and a lot of other Mississippians, it didn't.

That delusion was shattered when Mississippi native James Meredith won a court battle to become the first black student at Ole Miss. His admission sparked a riot on campus. Some students and a lot of angry outsiders attacked the U.S. marshals who had accompanied Meredith. Two men were killed before President John Kennedy sent in federal troops to restore order.

You said, "I believe hostility to dissent has been one of the most destructive burdens of Southern history. How so?

I was working for the student newspaper when Meredith was suing for admission to Ole Miss. The state's newspapers were almost unanimously favored resistance to ending segregation. It seemed to me the press in Mississippi had to bear some responsibility for the violence that broke out when Meredith was admitted.  The press had failed to acknowledge what was plain to see: That a system based on denying the vote and other basic rights of citizenship to 40 percent of its residents could not endure. Many Mississippians believed the demagogues because few voices were raised in disagreement – hardly any in state politics, and very few in the press. 

As a history major at Ole Miss, I became familiar with insights into Southern hostility toward dissent described in "The Mind of the South," the 1942 classic by Charlotte journalist W.J. Cash. The South’s enforcement of regional orthodoxy had  begun more than a century earlier to suppress criticism of slavery. Over time it broadened  to coerce conformity to virtually every  aspect of the Southern Way of Life, from racism to religion. Depending on the offense, the consequences for nonconformists might be mild or harsh, ranging from social disapproval to violence at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and its co-conspirators.

A Memphis newspaper I read growing up had this motto: "Give light and the people will find their own way." In too much of the South, the hostility  to dissent described by Cash kept people in the dark. 

How did working for The Charlotte Observer limit or  broaden your perspective? 

I came to The Observer as an editorial writer in 1973 because I thought it was the finest newspaper in the South. I still do. The Observer had no sacred cows. No topic was off limits. The newspaper's open and progressive philosophy freed me to write forthrightly about the most challenging and controversial issues of our time.

You have been a Southern journalist for half a century. What changes have you seen on those issues?

As suggested by the subtitle, "...from Ole Miss to Obama," one of the book's major themes is race. Racism is by no means dead, but our region's progress during my career is astounding. We're making progress on some other challenges, too. Look at the advances for women in politics and the workplace. Who would have imagined the rapid transition in society's attitude toward gays and lesbians? And yet some of the region's old problems still hold us back – poverty, poor health, failure to educate an alarming percentage of our children.

The Liberation of Dixie is not an achievement, it's a work in progress. Much remains to be done. But this is true, I think, about the South and about America: It will be better tomorrow than it is today. 


Share your story of the changing South with us below or on Facebook.

New South for the New Southerner: Ed Williams and Liberating Dixie
Monday, April 28, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Free for Museum members, $12 for non-members. Includes program, wine and a Southern dinner from Mert's Heart and Soul! 
Reservations required: 704.333.1887 ext. 501 or
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