‘City within a city’

The Arts

February 5, 2020

Levine Museum of the New South’s latest exhibition explores Brooklyn, once a thriving black community in downtown Charlotte.

by Vanessa Infanzon

Learning about our city’s history doesn’t have to be boring. Visitors to Levine Museum of the New South can uncover Charlotte’s past and current issues through interactive discussions with authors, augmented reality apps, artifacts and photographs.

The museum’s latest exhibition, Brooklyn: Once a City Within a City, highlights one of the largest black communities in Charlotte and in the Carolinas, according to staff historian Willie Griffin. “It explores the rise and demise of the Brooklyn neighborhood,” Griffin says. “It shows how the neighborhood was once a thriving and vibrant black community.”

The exhibit traces the origin of this neighborhood, in what is now downtown’s Second Ward, from the 1800s through its destruction in the 1960s. Aerial photographs from 1958 show churches, houses and schools. By the late ’60s, the community was razed, and nearly 1,500 buildings were demolished.

“In the 1973 photo, you can clearly see how that same chunk of the neighborhood was wiped out and replaced with sterile business buildings, the courthouse, a shopping mall and government center,” says Eric Scott, director of exhibits and programs. Now, developer BK Partners plans to create a nearly $700 million mixed-use project on the site, with retail space, offices, apartments, hotels and a park.

Guests can listen to interviews with nine former Brooklyn residents through the augmented reality component of the exhibit. An AR map shows how demographics shifted in Brooklyn from 1911 to the 1960s; another map shows how Charlotte has changed from the 1960s to the present. SP


Photograph provided by Levine Museum of the New South/Lady Lattimore Photography


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