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Life and Religion

Exhibit recalls Charlotte’s dark lynching legacy
Program at Levine Museum of the New South
Published Monday, April 22, 2019 2:17 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Lynching of Henry Smith in Paris, Texas, on February 1, 1893.

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April’s #ShapingCLT at the Levine Museum of the New South is dedicated to their latest exhibit.

The “Legacy of Lynching” opens to the public on April 25, but attendees of the April 24 #ShapingCLT discussion have the opportunity to experience it after Seth Kotch’s book talk from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Kotch, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill’s department of American Studies, published “Lethal State: A History of the Death Penalty in North Carolina” in February. The #ShapingCLT conversation will examine the correlation between lynching and the death penalty in North Carolina (tickets are $10).

A year ago, the Levine led a group of 26 Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers to Montgomery, Alabama for the opening of The Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Students, teachers, professors, journalists, city representatives and others have also journeyed to Alabama to experience the memorial, as well as EJI’s Legacy Museum. The endeavors were designed to educate Charlotteans about the two documented lynching cases in Mecklenburg County, as well as determine how to commemorate a difficult part of the city’s history.

“We are the third institution to host this ‘Legacy of Lynching’ exhibit, after Brooklyn Museum in New York and Haverford College in Pennsylvania,” Levine staff historian Willie Griffin said.

Said community historian Michael Moore: “It is a wonder what EJI has done, creating this national conversation about the legacy of slavery and white supremacy. In the case of Charlotte, it has helped create this context for us to look at these very painful and difficult stories, stories that have always been there, hiding in the open, but there are folks and organizations like the Levine Museum who are now interested in using what they have to open this conversation.”

Joseph McNeely (killed Sept. 26, 1913) and Willie McDaniel (killed June 29, 1929) represent two of 4,400 lives lost to lynching at the EJI Memorial.
“What we show in the exhibitions is their stories as much as we can,” Moore said. “These are not conversations that we have had in the past. Their memories have not been kept alive. Their stories have not been told and it’s difficult to recover their lives now.”

Research reveals that McNeely was a black man in his early 20s. He was involved in a shootout with a police officer, and due to McNeely’s injuries, is taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, now the site of Bank of America Stadium.

“To talk about this story, you have to talk about Good Samaritan Hospital,” Moore said. “Most younger people and most newcomers don’t know that there was a hospital specifically for the care of the African American community in Charlotte, and Joe was there in chains recovering from his wounds when he was taken by a mob of maybe 75 men, and taken into the street and shot and killed.”

McDaniel’s story illustrates the exploitation of tenant farmers.

“He moved up here from Chester County [South Carolina], just like so many other people, before and since,” Moore said. “He grew up on a farm, and he found a place up in Newell—six or seven miles northeast of Uptown, for he and his wife to farm on shares. He got into an argument with the white landowner over nonpayment for some work that he and his wife had done. He had the temerity to confront that owner, and he paid with his life for that.”

The lynchings are essential to understanding Charlotte’s history and shaping its future.

“These are stories that have been swept under the rug for a very long time, and certain segments of our population have been dealing with them sort of secretly,” Griffin said. “For this to happen, and for so many people Charlotte to want to take the opportunity [to visit the memorial], I think there have been four waves of buses that have gone down now. Everyone has come back so energized to confront this history and talk about it. History cannot be hidden forever. In order for us as a community to move forward, we have to confront it.”

For more information: www.museumofthenewsouth.org/programs-events-calendar/2019/4/24/shapingclt


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