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 4 of 4)

You can tune it all out at a backyard barbecue, where you talk about business or the Braves or wonder how Lefty Driesell’s upstart Davidson Wildcats will fare against the Tar Heels this winter. You still worry about war and crime, though. Everyone does these days, when you can watch the ghettos of once-great cities and the villages of Vietnam burn each night on your new TV set—now in color. Charlotte is calmer than those places, for sure. But still you see bank robberies and muggings and assaults. You know someone who lost his kid in Vietnam. A local DJ gets robbed in the bathroom of the White House Inn downtown. Someone robs a bank in the popular Park Road Shopping Center. An FBI report in August shows Charlotte has the second-highest murder rate in the nation and the fourth-highest rate of aggravated assaults. It’s national exposure—but not the kind the chamber wants.

It’s an election year. For white people, this is Nixon country. Law and order and low taxes. George Wallace makes a third-party run again, but his anger and overt racism don’t play well in affluent and affable Charlotte. Wallace gets 18 percent of the vote in Mecklenburg, Nixon 52 percent. Nixon’s hard line against school busing draws cheers from crowds when he speaks at Central Piedmont Community College in September. Not far away, Julius Chambers and other lawyers at the city’s first integrated firm build their appeal in the 4-year-old case of Darius Swann, the Johnson C. Smith University professor who challenged his son’s assignment to a mostly black school. The kid passes a mostly white school to get there. It’s been 11 years since Dorothy Counts endured vicious taunts and death threats to integrate Harding High School. Still, most black students remain at all-black schools. Chambers knows this case could change all that. But it won’t be easy getting Charlotte and the rest of the country to accept busing. And a victory in the courts, which will come in the next year, will mark only the first battle.

Around Christmastime, you huddle close to the TV with your family to watch the Apollo 8 launch. For the first time, men leave Earth’s orbit. You see the rockets burn red, then white across a blue Florida sky. You wonder what’s possible and what the future will hold.

Chuck McShane is a freelance writer based in Davidson. Email him at chuckmcshane@gmail.com. 
 

More »Related Stories

The Long Ride

What riding the bus taught me

The Fall of the Lions

When busing ended, West Charlotte High School went from being a model for the nation to a problem the city has yet to solve

In the Rearview Mirror: Busing in Charlotte

The Story of Charlotte, Part 5: Blood’s Bedroom

Charlotte avoids becoming a battlefield during the Civil War. But as the South is decimated, the city becomes a place of refuge for the Confederacy—including, in the end, the fleeing president from a nation that never was

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 »


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Planning for the Fall Landscape

An Extension Master Gardener helps us prepare

Comments


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

All Things Green Chile

The green chile is a pepper that ought to be celebrated, and Chuy's in SouthPark is ready to spotlight the spicy treat with drinks and dishes

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

The Charlotte Area's Soldier-Cops

Military surplus for Charlotte-area cops: Four armored vehicles in Cabarrus, six grenade launchers in Cleveland, 230 assault rifles in Gaston.

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

On Ferguson and Bill James

If the good people of District 6 are tired of Bill James, now's an excellent time for them to say so.

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

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

Nightlife News: Bakersfield Tequila Bar, Sports One Bar & Lounge, and Uptown Bar & Kitchen Now Open

The newest venues, poised to impact Charlotte’s nightlife and social scene.

Comments