Civil Rights

Gwendolyn Glenn

Sixty-two years ago, Dorothy Counts-Scoggins was ridiculed, spit on and heckled as she walked through the front doors of Harding High School on Irwin Avenue, the first African American to enroll there. Things became so bad for Counts-Scoggins, that her parents withdrew her about two weeks later out of fear for her safety. Today, Counts-Scoggins received a different welcome at Harding—now the Irwin Academic Center—a day in honor of her historic walk to break down racial barriers.

dan river coal ash cleanup
David Boraks / WFAE

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says coal ash ponds and landfills disproportionately affect poor and minority communities across the U.S. But that’s not what North Carolina officials found when they conducted their own “environmental justice reviews” of two sites this year.

Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE

The convictions of nine black men jailed for staging a sit-in at a Rock Hill, SC, segregated lunch counter in 1961 were overturned Wednesday. The men became known as the Friendship 9 because they were students at Friendship Junior College.


Today is the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the result of years of efforts and turbulence in America.  Freedom rides, sit-ins, and open racism in education and employment were commonplace. The success of the act was the bipartisan work of many now- iconic American figures, including two presidents. We’ll hear the dramatic details about the effort to ensure freedom for all.

Nearly all of us have filled out a job application that asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime.  Check the box yes, and you need to explain yourself. Well, that’s now a thing of the past for most potential city of Charlotte employees. City Manager Ron Carlee has decided to “ban the box.” We were joined this morning by the man who got this movement started in Charlotte a couple years ago. He’s Jason Huber, a law professor at the Charlotte School of Law, where he heads the school’s Civil Rights Clinic.


Flickr/Seth Sawyers / http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidewalk_flying/4267034867/sizes/l/

Union County is one of two North Carolina school districts accused of making it difficult for youth who are in the country illegally to enroll.  The Southern Poverty Law Center along with other groups filed the complaint with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. 


Part One: Soledad O'Brien on 'Black in America.' Soledad O'Brien is an award-winning journalist, documentarian and author. You may remember her as an anchor for CNN, she also does work for Al Jazeera, HBO and National Geographic. She is responsible for CNN's 'Black in America' documentary series, which is intended to be a conversation starter about race in America. Now she's taking that conversation on the road in the form of a town hall and she's bringing it to Charlotte. As a person of mixed race, with a black Afro-Cuban mother and white Australian father of Irish descent, she has faced complicated questions about race herself, on camera and off. She has often had to answer questions like, "what are you?" Ahead of her 'Black in America Town Hall' tonight at Knight Theatre, Soledad O'Brien joins us to share her story and discuss the challenging and often divisive issues of race, class, opportunity and social change.

By all accounts, Dr. Benjamin Chavis is a North Carolina legacy. The civil rights leader was not only on the forefront of civil rights protests in the state as a student at UNC Charlotte but he went on to serve in national leadership roles for the NAACP, the Million Man March and more. In 2010 a major feature film was made in North Carolina titled Blood Done Sign My Name. Dr. Chavis’ life and career was a focus of the film. Dr. Chavis returns to UNC Charlotte for a slate of events, including a screening of the film. He’ll share highlights of his career and discuss civil rights in our time.

On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched to Washington DC to demand their civil rights. Among those activists were Charlotteans who sought justice. They were there to hear Dr. Martin Luther King deliver his 'I have a dream' speech. It would become one of the most famous speeches in American history. On this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we visit with our own historic activists. They will relive those events of long ago and share with us their continued vision for civil rights in America, when Charlotte Talks

Lisa Miller

Charlotte commemorated a civil rights heavyweight Thursday.  Julius Chambers fought for equality through the courts and argued some of the cases that helped integrate this city’s schools and businesses. 

He had a lot of hatred directed at him as an African American challenging prejudice, but he never let that make him bitter. Instead, Chambers set up North Carolina’s first law firm to employ both black and white lawyers, partly to serve as an example of the integration he fought for.  He died last week.  His funeral was held Thursday.

Civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers dies at 76

Aug 4, 2013

Charlotte civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers has died at age 76. Chambers' law firm said he died Friday after months of declining health. In 1964, Chambers opened a law practice that became the state's first integrated law firm. He and his partners won cases that shaped civil rights law, including the Swann versus Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case on school busing.    Chambers argued eight cases before the US Supreme Court, winning all.

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey are more than just art collectors. They own one of the largest and most diverse private collections of African American artifacts and artwork in the world. Their wide-ranging collection examines 400 years of the African-American experience from nineteenth-century slave documents and an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation to letters written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and works by artists Romare Bearden and Henry O. Tanner. Now, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Kinseys have brought their passion for art and history to Charlotte where their collection will be on exhibition at the Harvey B. Gantt Center. We'll talk with Bernard and Shirley Kinsey and their son Khalil about their collection, their philanthropic vision and what they hope new generations will learn from four centuries of African American art, history and culture, when Charlotte Talks.

From Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, courtesy of Levine Museum.

Fifty years ago, a Charlotte Civil Rights activist led a march through Charlotte to call for desegregation in the city. That march triggered an "eat-in" at Charlotte restaurants with African American leaders, led by then Mayor Stan Brookshire. That action in Charlotte helped set the stage for the nation's 1964 Civil Rights Act. Fifty years after that action, we'll gather with historians as well as people who were there to talk about those historic events, how Charlotte has progressed since, and where we still need to go to fully achieve desegregation in Charlotte, when Charlotte Talks.

Cecil Williams via scetv.org

Charlotte newcomers may recognize the name "Gantt" because it's on the Center for African Arts and Culture Uptown. They may even know Harvey Gantt was the city's first African American mayor. But the name carries even more weight in South Carolina, where Gantt had a major role in desegregation. That is the subject of a new documentary airing this weekend on ETV – the South Carolina public television station.  WFAE's Julie Rose explains:

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Taylor Branch's most famous body of work is his trilogy chronicling the history of the American Civil Rights Movement and the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. His most recent work distills the trilogy into a smaller volume that is meant to be used by history teachers to help educate students about this defining period in our nation's history. We'll talk with Mr. Branch about the Civil Rights era and what led him to write so extensively about it, about race today, and more, when Charlotte Talks.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote "worship at its best is a social experience with people of all levels" His vision for more integrated churches has not truly come to fruition but several area religious leaders hope to change that. We'll meet a Sociologist studying the divisive nature that can pervade churches in our region as well as two Pastors working to diversify their own congregations. On the week of the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we look at his hope for integration of the church experience in America.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." There is evidence that children form attitudes and opinions about race as early as six months old. In a recent study by our guest Dr. Melanie Killen (commissioned by CNN), a white child and a black child look at the exact same picture of two students on the playground and see very different things. How do children interpret our differences and form racial attitudes? We'll find out how to talk to kids about race with a researcher into children's social development and the author of a children's book about race.