February 14, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ONCE SEGREGATED PARK TO BE MARKED
BY MONUMENT FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE
Charlotte, NC - It’s hard for younger generations in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to imagine a time when children of all races were not allowed in public parks. But that condition existed here under racial segregation.
On Friday, February 25 at Noon, the Mecklenburg Park and Recreation Department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Heritage Committee will dedicate a monument at Pearl Street Park, 1200 Baxter Street. The monument will mark this park as “the first Negro playground and first African-American park in Mecklenburg County.” Several African-Americans who remember playing in the park and who experienced those days of segregation will be present for the dedication and available for interviews.
The City of Charlotte purchased the 6-acre site of Pearl Street Park for $2,500 in 1942 from the Thompson Orphanage, an Episcopal institution. Literature of the time described it “as a park for Negro children.” Contemporary news reports say white landowners in the area objected, but the city opened the park in 1943.
Louise Tolliver, 63, who lived nearby, remembers playing as a child in Pearl Street Park. She says it had a wading pool, swings, slide, merry-go-round, and baseball field. She remembers that it was the only public park where African American children were allowed to play. Ms. Tolliver says there were requirements “for whites only” in the other parks around Charlotte.
She also recalls that the football team from old Second Ward High School at 501 South Alexander Street--near where the Education Center is now--practiced on a field in Pearl Street Park. The surrounding community, known as Brooklyn, was like a second downtown in Charlotte - this one for the black community. Brooklyn was cleared to bare earth by urban renewal in the late 1960’s.
Pearl Street Park is one of the few remaining parts of this heritage. Parks were gradually desegregated here in the early 1960’s, when Charlotte became the first city in the South to desegregate public accommodations, ahead the 1964 Civil Right Act. Mecklenburg County acquired Pearl Street Park in 1992, when City and County parks departments merged to County control.