Why May 20 (MeckDec Day) is a big deal in Charlotte

Why May 20 (MeckDec Day) is a big deal in Charlotte

The Spirit of Mecklenburg statue of Captain James Jack at the corner of 4th Street and Kings Drive near uptown Charlotte. (May 20th Society) 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Each year, near the middle of May, folks in and around Charlotte will start hearing a lot about MeckDec Day. You see, MeckDec Day is a pretty big deal in the Queen City.

Here’s why: On May 20, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was read from the courthouse steps at noon, making Charlotte the first American governing body to declare independence from Great Britain – more than a year before the Thomas Jefferson-authored declaration was adopted by the Second Continental Congress.

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Every year, events are held to commemorate and celebrate the Mecklenburg Declaration on May 20, which has also become known as MeckDec Day. However, as the concern over the spread of coronavirus continues, most events were canceled or moved online this year.

On Wednesday, the Charlotte Museum of History will host a special edition of its Lunch & Learn series on Zoom, featuring Charlotte Readers Podcast host Landis Wade and Scott Syfert, co-founder of the May 20th Society. Click here for more information.

On Thursday, the museum will reveal a never-before-seen artifact from 1777 that’s connected to Captain James Jack, the messenger who carried the legendary Mecklenburg Declaration to Philadelphia. Visit the museum’s Facebook page for more details.

More MeckDec Day Facts:

  • In the spring of 1775, the American colonies were at war with the British. Mecklenburg County civic leaders gathered at the log courthouse (corner of Trade and Tryon streets) to discuss the crisis.
  • On May 19, 1775, a rider brings news of a massacre of colonists by British troops at Lexington. In response, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was drafted, unanimously adopted, and read from the courthouse steps on May 20 at noon.
  • For this reason, the date "May 20, 1775," is on the state flag of North Carolina.
  • Having declared independence, the next step was to establish a new code of governance for the county so on May 31 a committee of safety adopts 20 resolutions (now known as the “Mecklenburg Resolves”). These are essentially executive bylaws designed to set forth how the county is to be governed, now that it’s independent from Great Britain.
  • A copy of the declaration was given to a local merchant, Captain James Jack, to deliver to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
  • North Carolina congressional representatives never presented the Mecklenburg Declaration to the national congress, however, after two of the state’s delegates report that reconciliation with the British crown might be in progress.
  • In June 1775, the Mecklenburg Resolves are published in at least three newspapers.
  • North Carolina was the first state to vote for independence by authorizing its delegates to vote on it in April 1776. Then on July 4, 1776, the national Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress.
  • Unfortunately, all original copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration were lost when fire destroyed the house of secretary J.M. Alexander in 1800. A working copy survived the fire and Alexander made a new copy that is currently held at the University of North Carolina.
  • On May 20, 1822, the first public commemoration of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was held in Charlotte.
  • It would take 50 years for MeckDec to receive national recognition. The centennial celebration of the declaration had 40,000 attendees when Charlotte’s population was only 6,000.

We should note, there are some historians that do not believe the Mecklenburg Declaration ever existed. For more on that controversy, click here.

Check out may20thsociety.org to learn more.