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Old Anger and a Lost Neighborhood In Charlotte

The demise of Brooklyn—one of the nation’s oldest black neighborhoods before urban renewal—sheds light on the forces that have led to today’s city-wide anger.
Then-Mayor Pat McCrory smiles as he talks about an artist's rendition of the city's NASCAR's Hall of Fame (located in the former Brooklyn neighborhood), during a public unveiling in 2005.
Then-Mayor Pat McCrory smiles as he talks about an artist's rendition of the city's NASCAR's Hall of Fame (located in the former Brooklyn neighborhood), during a public unveiling in 2005.Chuck Burton/AP

CHARLOTTE– The Second Ward High School Alumni House and Museum is a modest institution, a little brick house along Beatties Ford Road, the main artery in what’s historically the black part of town. For decades, the house has been a repository for photos, yearbooks, bricks—the beloved remains of Second Ward High, Charlotte’s first black high school. In the 1960s, the city demolished the school and its entire neighborhood, known as Brooklyn, in the name of urban renewal.

Last month, a Charlotte police officer shot and killed a black man, Keith Lamont Scott. Within hours, protests turned ugly—rock throwing and looting, riot police and tear gas. For Charlotte, this violence was unprecedented. At a press conference, Mayor Jennifer Roberts looked tense and weary. “We have a long tradition of working together to solve our problems,” she told reporters. “The events that we saw last night are not the Charlotte that I know and love.”