Why This Matters: The Levine Museum of the New South’s new exhibition “The Legacy of Lynching” asks Charlotte-Mecklenburg to confront an ugly part of its past in order to better understand its present.
By Bernie Petit
A new exhibition at Levine Museum of the New South forces Charlotte-Mecklenburg to confront one of the ugliest parts of its past.
“The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” which opened in April and runs through July 17, presents the Equal Justice Initiative’s groundbreaking research into the history of terror lynchings, including two recorded lynchings that took place in Mecklenburg County.
The exhibition features powerful oral testimonies from descendants of lynching victims and seeks to spark conversation about the legacy of racial injustice, from slavery to present-day mass incarceration.
“If we do not understand that part of our history in the country and the community’s history in that history, we can never come to grips with some of the things we’re dealing with today,” said ASC President Robert Bush.
Levine Museum is the third institution to host the traveling exhibition, previously displayed at Brooklyn Museum in New York and Haverford College in Haverford, Penn.
Among the community events scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition is “It Happened Here: The Charlotte Remembrance Project” on May 8, an interactive dialogue about the story behind the exhibit, Mecklenburg County’s two documented lynching victims and the journey of bringing a memorial to publicly acknowledge the tragic events to Charlotte.
The first documented lynching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg occurred in August, 1913 where Bank of America Stadium – home of the Carolina Panthers – now stands.
There was a shootout between a white police officer and Joe McNeely. The injured officer was taken to Presbyterian Hospital; McNeely was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, the African-American hospital once found where fans stand and cheer for the Panthers.
“Some say that a group as large as 70, another version says 30 masked men gathered around 1 [o’clock] in the morning and stormed the hospital,” Levine Museum historian Willie Griffin told WBTV. ”Drug him out of his hospital bed into the front of the hospital and they riddled him with bullets and they just disappeared.”
The other documented lynching in Mecklenburg happened in June, 1929, when Willie McDaniel – a tenant farmer – was murdered for arguing with a white landowner over nonpayment for work.
The two Mecklenburg lynchings are among the 4,391 that occurred between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, as documented by the Mobile, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative, including 123 in North Carolina.
The exhibition asks Charlotte-Mecklenburg to face its past so that it can make sense of its present.
View the Exhibition
“The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” running now through July 17, 2019 at Levine Museum of the New South. View hours of operation and admission.
ASC Donors: Use your ASC Connect with Culture card for buy-one-get-one free admission.