Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to become a Supreme Court Justice, once said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute”. Throughout the history of America, the black community has continuously been deprived of equality after the atrocities of slavery, Jim Crow laws and segregation. Black History Month provides us with an important opportunity to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and recognize their central role in U.S. history. One way to celebrate Black History Month is by learning about the history of the black community in your local area, so we'll take a closer look into our towns of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville.
The town of Cornelius is putting together their annual celebration in partnership with the Smithville CommUnity Coalition, and the event will be back in-person! Smithville is a historically black neighborhood and has been an integral part of the Town of Cornelius since 1869. Smithville was established just after the Civil War when former slaves were freed. You can learn more about the history of Smithville and black history in Cornelius on Saturday, February 25 at the Cornelius Town Hall from 12-2pm.
In the spirit of learning, Pott’s Barbershop is the first black-owned barbershop in Cornelius, and has been in the same spot on Catawba Avenue since the 1960s! The building was designated as a historic landmark in October 2021, and the shop is the oldest business owned by African Americans in Cornelius. Along with being open for over 70 years, the barbershop broke racial barriers through integrating their shop as black barbers cutting white hair for 12 years before integration.
Visitors viewing artwork in the Cornelius Town Hall
The Africana Studies Department at Davidson College has focused on black history dating back to the 1960s while honing in on new directions that truly reflect the realities of the 21st century. In an interview with Prof. Daniel Aldridge, he goes on to say that celebrating Black History Month is important because "more knowledge is good, and knowledge of history is good for everybody." It's not only important to touch on the Civil Rights Movement and the history of slavery and struggle, but it's also critical to know about the rich social and cultural history of the black community.
Davidson Public Library
At Davidson, the first formal observance of Black history was April 1976, when the Black Student Coalition invited the faculty to participate in “Black Week.” In the late 80s, the Black Student Coalition was formalized through the creation of the Black History Month Cultural Art Series, and the BSC has continued to provide a strong voice for the black community at Davidson College. This year you can listen to "Redeeming The Soul of America - MLK and The Audacity of Faith" on February 7 at the Davidson College Presbyterian Church at 7pm by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Taylor Branch.
The town of Huntersville has several historical sites including Rural Hill which has been preserved for people to explore and learn. The Rural Hill property is home to two schoolhouses - the Davidson Schoolhouse and Bethesda Schoolhouse. The Davidson Schoolhouse is a one-room building that was built in 1890 which was originally open to white children living in the nearby community.
After the construction of a larger schoolhouse in 1911, the children were relocated to the new building. The smaller building remained open for African American children until they were relocated to Long Creek School. The Bethesda Schoolhouse was built around 1898 and is currently one of only two known existing rural one-room schoolhouses for black children still standing in Mecklenburg County. This schoolhouse was built by a popular local black farmer, named John Young, and his initiative in establishing this school for African American children is critical to the history of Lake Norman.
The Town of Huntersville is hosting many different celebrations this month to recognize the influential history of Black residents in the area. Every Monday throughout February, you can join the community for weekly Black History Month programs! Each event will be free to attend and open to all ages! All attendees will need to pre-register for each event, and you can find registration information here. You can find a list of the programs below:
- February 6, 2023 – Showing of “Harriett” at 12pm and “Soul” at 5:30pm at Dellwood Center
- February 13, 2023 – Story book reading by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at 2:30pm at Dellwood Center
- February 20, 2023 – Special Performance by Drums 4 Life at 2:30pm at David B. Waymer Recreation Center
- February 27, 2023 – Black History Bingo/Trivia program at 2 pm at David B. Waymer Recreation Center
While Black History Month runs in February, it's important to take the time to learn about different cultures throughout the year to help us gain a global perspective on various topics. When we take the time to learn and listen, we become better informed citizens which will help shape a better life for future generations.