Black History Month often makes us think about influential figures from the past.
State of play: Some of Charlotte’s are still with us, like Dorothy “Dot” Counts-Scoggins, who integrated Charlotte’s schools on Sept. 4, 1957, Harvey Gantt, who became Charlotte’s first Black mayor in 1983, Sarah Stevenson, the first Black woman to serve on Charlotte’s school board and a longtime education advocate and James Ferguson, a civil rights attorney and a founding partner with Julius Chambers of Ferguson, Chambers and Sumter.
- Counts-Scoggins, who lives near her childhood home in west Charlotte, remains an active community advocate.
The big picture: Black history isn’t just something to be celebrated for a month once a year. Charlotteans are making Black history every day.
Here are 25 people shaping Black history in Charlotte today.
1. Kass Ottley, founded Seeking Justice Charlotte, a grassroots organization fighting against police brutality and for police reform. She has been protesting for change since she was a child in New York City.
2. Cheryse Terry, a west Charlotte native, opened what she calls a “culture shop” on Beatties Ford Road in August. Her goal with Archive, which has coffee, books, Merck and events, is to preserve Black culture in Charlotte.
3. Davita Galloway co-founded Dupp&Swat, a space for Black innovators with her brother Dion Galloway in 2010, and it also includes a nonprofit arm called Crown Keepers. She recently co-created an exhibit at the Mint Museum Uptown called “Graphic GarMINT,” highlighting Black designers.
4. Jermaine and Damian Johnson created a Charlotte institution: No Grease! Barbershop, which turned 25 last June. And their barber school has trained a new generation of barbers to not only cut hair, but how to become entrepreneurs like them.
6. Keith Cradle founded a nonprofit called Camping with Cradle to teach youth life skills through outdoor activities like camping and hiking.
7. Mattie Marshall, known by many as Ms. Mattie, is a longtime advocate Historic Washington Heights in west Charlotte, where she has served as neighborhood Association president for decades. She helped raise $275,000 to re-purpose the site of the former Ritz Theatre, a segregation-era theater, on Beatties Ford Road.
8. Every artist who was involved in painting “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on Tryon Street in Uptown in June 2020.
9. Every artist preserving Black history through murals that tell stories on Beatties Ford Road.
10. Christopher Dennis is behind the redevelopment at Beatties Ford Road and LaSalle Street.
11. Greg and Subrina Collier are the power couple behind Leah & Louise, which ranks No. 1 on our list of best restaurants in Charlotte. Greg recently received his fourth consecutive James Beard Award nomination after becoming the first Charlotte chef to make it past the semifinal round last year.
12. Gerald Johnson is the publisher of The Charlotte Post, a Black newspaper dating back to 1878. Johnson’s father, Bill Johnson was publisher before him, purchasing the paper in 1974.
13. Glenn Burkins founded and is the publisher of of QCity Metro, a digital Black news outlet covering Charlotte since 2008.
14. Dr. Raynard Washington became Mecklenburg County’s public health director at the start of 2022. He’s been responsible for shaping the county’s response to COVID-19 and mpox.
15. Gene Woods is the CEO of Atrium Health, which doubled its size and is developing an innovation district and med school campus under his leadership.
16. Fred Whitfield is the president, vice chairman, alternate governor and minority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He’s a key player in the evolution of the franchise, including Spectrum Center’s latest substantial renovation project.
Positions of power
17. Charles Thomas, a Charlotte native, is the Knight Foundation director in Charlotte, providing grant funding to different projects throughout the city, specifically focusing on the Historic West End.
18. Kieth Cockrell is the president of Bank of America Charlotte, making him essentially the top local banker focused on Charlotte.
19. Malcomb Coley, Charlotte managing partner at accounting firm EY, is the co-chair of the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative.
20. Marcellus “MT” Turner is the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO/chief librarian. He’s at the helm as the library prepares to build a new main branch.
21. Marcus Jones is Charlotte’s city manager, meaning he’s responsible for running the city. He’s also the first Black person to hold the position.
22. Marvin Ellison is CEO of Mooresville-based Lowe’s, which recently opened a massive new tower in South End to house its tech hub.
23. Mayor Vi Lyles is Charlotte’s first Black female mayor.
24. Sheriff Garry McFadden, a former homicide detective, has been sheriff since 2018, making national headlines after less than a year on the job as “The Sheriff Who’s Defying ICE.”
25. Spencer Merriweather became the county’s first Black district attorney in November 2017.
Editor’s note: This is a snapshot of the Black Charlotteans shaping the future of the city and not intended to be a comprehensive list. But if you have someone you think we should’ve included, by all means let us know at [email protected]