The class of 1971 at West Charlotte High School embraced their newly diversified school even as public clamor over busing continued. Many Charlotteans supported busing, and many others opposed the practice. The students, however, largely understood the significance behind the transition. They put it best in their own words:
“The Students of West Charlotte High School have been given a unique opportunity to show their commitment to change. As an all-black school, we saw the racial question from a unique vantage point. Now we are different, black and white – TOGETHER. There have been problems, but the important thing is integration worked.”
You can check out several issues of The Lion (West Charlotte HS Yearbook) at UNCC Special Collections.
An interesting CNN article on Charlotte and the economic/demographic changes since 2007:
One year later, in 1971, West Charlotte High School looked quite different. In 1970, the school continued to operate as a de facto segregated institute. In between that school year and the new one beginning in 1971, the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education Supreme Court decision upended the long-standing racial boundaries in Charlotte’s public schools. The decision called for busing to be used a vehicle to integrate schools. Students would be bused across town to ensure racial diversity in schools (see previous posts for more detailed information).
The 1971 West Charlotte High School yearbook reflected the momentous change that took place over the last year. Rather than cling to the ways of the past, the students on the yearbook staff praised the integration of their school and viewed it as an important step on the path to achieving racial equality. They hoped their positive outlook would inspire their parents and the rest of Charlotte’s citizenry to embrace rather than reject busing as a means of school integration.
Below are some of the images taken from the West Charlotte High School 1971 Yearbook called The Lion. Enjoy! Next week I will post more great photos from the same yearbook.
In 1970, sixteen years after the Supreme Court declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional, West Charlotte High School, Second Ward High School, Myers Park High School, and every other school in the city continued to operate on a segregated basis. Although city leaders and school administrators in Charlotte and across the country slowly (very slowly) began to dismantle racial restrictions on schools allowing for students of any race to attend school together, schools remained segregated. In essence, it could be said that many schools desegregated, but had not yet integrated. The difference between the two words is not semantic, but rather speaks to the issue at the heart of the problem. School enrollment was based on neighborhood racial composition. So, the affluent and white area surrounding Myers Park dictated that Myers Park High School would continue to be dominantly white, even though technically, the school desegregated. That also meant that schools operating in African American areas of the city remained, largely, black schools. The problem, then, was that vast inequality still existed between black and white schools, even though the year was 1970 and all schools had theoretically desegregated. Black schools were often neglected physically and monetarily and the students lacked educational benefits that their fellow white students received on the other side of town.
So, what to do? How could this problem be fixed? The city could not uproot the entire population and integrate neighborhoods across the county. But at the same time, if left to its own devices, schools would never be integrated because neighborhoods were not integrated. Stay tuned for future blog posts to learn more….
For now, check out some of these images from the West Charlotte High School yearbook in 1970. The next year, in 1971, the students would look quite different…
The Mary Boyer Postcard Collection at UNC Charlotte Special Collections contains hundreds of vintage postcards depicting buildings, scenes, and people from Charlotte, North Carolina. Among the postcards are several with images of Charlotte’s schools. As the previous post indicates, white schools held significant advantages over black schools. There were several white high schools, but only two black high schools. One was Second Ward HS (featured below) and the other was West Charlotte HS. WCHS continues to operate today, but Second Ward HS closed in 1969. Some of the “white” schools still stand, including Central HS which is now a part of the campus at CPCC.
In 1948, the local NAACP commissioned Dr. Martin D. Jenkins from Howard University to conduct a survey of Charlotte’s public schools. At that time, it was noticeable to all that black schools lagged far behind the county’s white schools. With better facilities, more subjects, more teachers, less students, and more funds, “white” schools held many advantages over African American schools. Conservatives denied that terrible inequalities existed and maintained that schools were “separate, but equal.” Before the Brown decision came six years later, schools operated on a segregated and unequal basis. Dr. Jenkins investigated these conditions and wrote a detailed report of his findings.
Listed below are two tables that depict certain differences between white and black schools. This evidence helped identify specific evidence for how segregation hurt black schools and students. The entire report can be found at UNCC Special Collections here.
White supremacy has a long history in North Carolina. As the schools began to desegregate in 1957, and as the debate intensified in the late 1960s over busing to integrate schools, some resistance was more inflammatory than others. The Ku Klux Klan hated the idea of integrated schooling and resisted it across the South. Though perceived as a racist and violent group by most, this fringe group still received attention as the debate continued.
At UNCC Special Collections, the papers of Robert E. Scoggin hold many publications, documents, and other primary source materials related to the KKK. Scoggin was a member of the South Carolina KKK and served as Imperial Dragon for a time. His collection is a useful resource for anyone interested in white supremacist literature during the civil rights era.
This magazine spread is from the Fiery Cross, the KKK news publication. May 1969.