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. 
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Charlottean of the Year 2014 (Volunteer): Rick McDermott

He gets up earlier than most other people. He goes to bed later than most other people. And in the hours in between, he spends his life giving to other people

Charlottean of the Year 2014 (Philanthropy): Six Charities Worth Your Dollar

This is a generous city. A recent study in the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked the Charlotte metro area ninth among large American cities for the percentage of income its residents give to charity. But how do you know where to give? Start here. These groups provide healthy food, mentoring, after-school tutoring, and help paying the bills

Charlottean of the Year 2014 (Public Service): Anne Tompkins

She prosecuted the mayor. She investigated Saddam Hussein’s regime. She can be stern. But for Anne Tompkins, bringing justice brings her joy

Charlottean of the Year 2014 (Sports): BB&T Ballpark

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

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Newsletters

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

Newsletter Sign Up
Email*
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Blogs »

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

Another Lucrative Payout

It's easy to benefit from an ethically questionable deal when so many citizens cheer it.

Comments


On Tap

Matt McKenzie on Craft Beer in Charlotte

Holiday Parties at Pint Central, Flying Saucer, Salud Beer Shop and more

Your local craft beer guide to upcoming events

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

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

Holiday Socials, Ghosts of Christmas, Ugly Sweater Parties, K. Michelle After-Party, and More - Dec. 18-21

Take a break from all of the Christmas shopping you still have to do, and enjoy at least one of these events from your social itinerary.

Comments


Charlotte at Home

Creating Your Space in the Queen City

Dinner Party Decisions

Chef Alyssa Gorelick offers tips for a fun, relaxed evening for the guests and the host

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

New Year’s Eve 2014: Concerts & Comedy in Charlotte

Comments

Edit ModuleShow Tags