Historic black community near uptown slowly fades due to urban renewal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A historic black community near uptown Charlotte is slowly fading due to urban renewal programs, and the remaining structures are vanishing after being worn out by time.

"This was a very booming area back then,” said Dr. James Neal.

Channel 9’s Ken Lemon spoke to Neal, who grew up in the community of Belmont called ‘top of the hill,' which was a segregated community with its own downtown.

Many areas like it grew in cities across the county when black families were turned away from communities and businesses. The Brooklyn Community near uptown Charlotte was said to be one of the most popular communities of its time.

"It had the largest thriving black community in the Carolinas,” said Willie Griffin with the Levine Museum of The New South.

Griffin said knowing Brooklyn means knowing the history of black economics and lifestyle in Charlotte, and a richer understanding of the people who made up the Queen City.

"You will find that African Americans have had a long history of being business people,” said Neal.

Urban renewal brought federal money for new construction with little giving to the people already there.

"1,000 families displaced, 200 businesses closed. Most were never reopened. A dozen churches kicked out. Four buildings still stand,” said historian Dr. Tom Hanchett.

According to Hanchett, those four buildings are still standing right under the Charlotte skyline.

"That demolition of those neighborhoods didn't just hurt the people who were in them. It hurt our sense of possibility in these United States,” said Hanchett.

The Levine Museum of The New South has an exhibit opening Nov. 15 about the Brooklyn Community and its history.