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?