The Past: 1968

Around the country, it’s an explosive year. In Charlotte, tension simmers. But the city never erupts, and years of prosperity follow. Here, we recreate the story of 1968 through the eyes of an average Charlottean



(page 1 of 4)

Place mouse over picture to see information.


You work in an office for Eastern Air Lines or Celanese or
Westinghouse.

You’re in distribution or sales or research for a textile company or a loan officer for a bank. You make about $9,000 a year. That’s not bad—better than your parents did in the mill or on the farm. Much better than the national average of $7,000. And that’s why you came to Charlotte from Lincolnton or Wilson or Kannapolis or Wilkesboro. Good jobs with good pay. It’s why the city has tripled its population in 30 years. Charlotte is turning 200 years old in 1968, but it feels young.  

If you own a home, you’re dealing with a tax increase—from $1.60 per $100 to $1.74. Sales tax is up too, but you probably voted for that.

You still shop at the downtown department stores sometimes. Not as much as you used to, certainly. And you sure as hell don’t stick around down there after dark.

After all, you can get most of the stuff you need at the new Woolco or Zayre or Kmart without dealing with the vagrants or the grime or the parallel parking. Once they finish the new Belk-Sears-Ivey’s center down in that cow patch off Fairview, maybe you won’t have to go downtown at all. What are they calling that place again? SouthPark?

DON STURKEY

About eight years removed from the sit-in movement that helped desegregate lunch counters, blacks and whites share lunch together at the Coffee Cup in Third Ward.

If you’re young and single and just starting out, you live in one of the new apartment complexes down South Boulevard or out Park Road. If you’re raising kids, you live in a ranch house on the east side. If you’re moving into middle management, maybe you get a nice two-story in one of the new subdivisions off Providence. If you’re hard up for cash or into the hippie lifestyle, you share an old house or apartment in Dilworth, where rent is cheap and pot is plentiful.

If you’re black, the west side is becoming your only option. 

You live in a city that boasts how it desegregated restaurants with little fuss five years ago. That’s when Mayor Stan Brookshire walked into the Manger Inn on 10th Street with NAACP leader and funeral home owner Frederick Douglas Alexander and placed an order. That’s how things get done in Charlotte. The mayor and the Chamber of Commerce say “Make it so,” and it happens. It’s the same city where in 1965, bombs went off at Alexander’s and three other black leaders’ homes. But it’s also the city that voted Alexander onto the City Council that same year.In 1968, you can still get evicted from an apartment for throwing an interracial party. And the City Council won’t vote on Alexander’s motion to tear down a fence standing between the black and white sections of the city-owned Pinewood and Elmwood cemeteries. Alexander bides his time on the cemetery fence issue, waiting until one of his opponents misses a meeting with the flu. He brings the motion again. Brookshire breaks the tie, and the fence comes down. 

A symbolic controversy over construction and demolition makes sense this year. It’s a time for building up and a time for tearing down. Subdivisions and retail centers in the suburbs. High-rise dorms out on the edge of town at UNC Charlotte. Down at Tryon and Second, where vacant Victorian homes and turn-of-the-century shops stand creaking and crumbling, First Union bank breaks ground on a 32-story skyscraper—the tallest yet in the state. A few blocks to the east, a new courthouse and jail rise amid empty lots, leaving little trace of the neighborhood that had a decade ago been the heart of black Charlotte.

More »Related Stories

Period.

The man who writes obituaries, the people who hire him, and what we learn from our last words

Around Town: Matthews

Fresh food, fresh faces, and an old way of life preserved

The Story of Charlotte, Part 3: The Corrupting Treasure

Two hundred years before Charlotte becomes a banking hub, a gold rush gives the city its first taste of wealth

The Story of Charlotte

We invite your responses and discussion. Please refrain from personal attacks, profanity, commercial promotion, or non sequiturs.

Add your comment:

Newsletters

Stay up-to-date on all things Charlotte by siging up for our newsletters. Learn more by clicking here.

Blogs »


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Kids Cook with Heart

Six groups of kids competed Saturday morning in a delicious fajita faceoff

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

Salud Beer Shop plans expansion, nanobrewery

Will feature beers from Carolina Brewmasters, other guest brewers

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

Art Pope and the Threat to N.C. Higher Ed

A thorough Washington Post profile explores Art Pope and his attempts to bring N.C. universities to heel.

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Talking Trellising

This technique works well to maximize space and add interest

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Fire in the City: It's back!

Luca Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro and Clark Barlowe of Heirloom kick off Charlotte's second round of competition dining

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

The Weekday Roundup: Dave Matthews Band, Maria Bamford, and Mary Poppins

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

Bob Rucho's Idea of 'Local Control'

The Senate is considering a bill that would keep MeckCo voters from deciding on a sales tax hike. So much for the virtues of local control.

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Painting Pointers

A local designer helps us broaden our palette

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Try This!

From Indian delicacies to Mexican cheese-smothered chicken, go out and taste all that Charlotte's restaurants have to offer

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

Lenny Boy Brewing Company celebrates flagship beer release

North Carolina's first certified organic brewery will now be open on Fridays

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

How Pat McCrory Undermines His Own Good Ideas On Education

The governor has some decent ideas about school reform--but he keeps lying about nonexistent 'teachers' unions.'

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Which tomato do I want?

Take a taste this Saturday in Matthews

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

Jarvis Holliday Chronicles Charlotte's Nightlife and Social Scene, Straight No Chaser

The Gray Classic Weekend, Martini and a Makeover, Cirque de Whisky, Daytime Summer Parties, and More - July 17-20

It’s another eventful span of four days in Charlotte, and several of these events are fundraisers, which means you can feel good while you're feeling good.

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Getting Greeky

I ditched Food Truck Friday for a taste of Greece - flaming cheese and all.

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

This Weekend in Charlotte: Discovery Place, KISS, and MattyB

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

Foul

Pat McCrory bypassed the N.C. Arts Council in naming a state Poet Laureate. We respond with a 'Howl' of protest.

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Smashburger Fires Up for Grand Opening

A portion of opening month proceeds benefitting local charity and a free burger giveaway on opening day

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

The anatomy of an award-winning beer

How Hop, Drop ‘n Roll went from a basement recipe to the gold medal at the World Beer Cup, and what’s next for NoDa Brewing

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

5 Tips for Using Herbs in Summer Cocktails

Mint, rosemary, and basil are all natural fits with summer sips

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

The Weekday Roundup: Porgy and Bess, O.A.R., and Lionel Richie

Comments