Pan­thers sta­dium on site of 1913 lynch­ing

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY TIM FUNK [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com first

A large Mason jar filled with soil from a site in Meck­len­burg County is part of an ex­hibit at a new memo­rial and mu­seum in Mont­gomery, Ala., that are ded­i­cated to re­mem­ber­ing the thou­sands of African-Amer­i­can vic­tims of racial ter­ror be­tween 1877 and 1950.

Spelled out in white let­ters on the jar are the name of a black ten­ant farmer and the date on which he was lynched: “Wil­lie McDaniel, Char­lotte, North Carolina, June 29, 1929.”

But there’s no jar of soil from the site of Meck­len­burg’s doc­u­mented lynch­ing.

That came in 1913, when Joe McNeely, a 19-year-old African-Amer­i­can la­borer, was dragged from his sec­ond-floor bed at Good Sa­mar­i­tan Hos­pi­tal and shot to death by a white mob on the street be­low. (Lynch­ing is de­fined as killing some­one with­out a le­gal trial, not solely by hang­ing.)

Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium now sits on the site where Char­lotte’s black hos­pi­tal used to be. And to get soil from where McNeely was shot up, a Char­lotte his­to­rian says, you’d have to take a shovel to the sta­dium’s 20yard line on the down­town side.

“I over­laid a his­tor­i­cal map over a cur­rent map” to lo­cate where the front steps of the hos­pi­tal would have been, said Michael Moore, a Char­lotte his­to­rian who has com­piled in­for­ma­tion about the McNeely and McDaniel lynch­ings for the Levine Mu­seum of the New South.

“JOE M’NEELY IS SHOT BY A MOB,” read the head­line atop the front page story in the Char­lotte Daily Ob­server on Aug. 26, 1913.

“What will in all prob­a­bil­ity prove to be the first lynch­ing in the his­tory of Meck­len­burg County,” the story be­gan, “oc­curred at 2:15 this morn­ing when a mob of 35 men stormed the Good Sa­mar­i­tan Hos- pital and took there­from the ne­gro Joe McNeely, who last week shot Po­lice­man Wil­son. The crowd threw him in the street in front of the door and rid­dled him with bul­lets.”

McNeely, who had been taken to the hos­pi­tal in chains af­ter a re­ported gun­fight with a Char­lotte po­lice of­fi­cer, died at po­lice head­quar­ters a few hours af­ter the masked mem­bers of the mob “hurled their leaden mis­siles” into him, as the ar­ti­cle put it.

By gun­ning down McNeely, his­to­rian Moore said, his mur­der­ers were send­ing a vi­o­lent mes­sage de­signed to en­force white supremacy in the Jim Crow South.

“Lynch­ing was about racial ter­ror,” Moore said. “It was in­tended as a state­ment that AfricanAmer­i­cans were in­fe­rior to whites and they needed to stay in their place.”

Moore and Wil­lie Grif­fin, staff his­to­rian at the Levine Mu­seum, re­cently led a group of about 50 lo­cal peo­ple – teach­ers, clergy, ac­tivists, and stu­dents – to Mont­gomery. There they vis­ited the Na­tional Memo­rial for Peace and Jus­tice and its nearby Legacy Mu­seum, both of which opened in April in the city that was the first cap­i­tal of the Con­fed­er­acy and is home to the first church ever pa­s­tored by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A path­way in the memo­rial fea­tures more than 800 6-foot corten steel mon­u­ments that hang from the ceil­ing. Each is en­graved with the name of a county in the United States where AfricanAmer­i­cans were lynched. The one for Meck­len­burg County lists the names of McNeely and McDaniel as well as the dates on which they were killed.

The mu­seum, which tells the story of racial ter­ror “From En­slave­ment to Mass In­car­cer­a­tion,” fea­tures a dis­play of Mason jars filled with soil from more than 300 lynch­ing sites – in­clud­ing the one hon­or­ing the mem­ory of McDaniel, who was hanged, cut down, dragged away and left for dead on farm­land just north­east of Char­lotte in Newell.

The memo­rial and mu­seum were built by the Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive, a hu­man rights and le­gal ser­vices group that’s also based in Mont­gomery. It has doc­u­mented about 4,000 lynch­ings in the South and 300 more in other states.

EJI says it opened the memo­rial to ed­u­cate vis­i­tors “about how two cen­turies of en­slave­ment of black peo­ple evolved into decades of ter­ror and vi­o­lence fol­low­ing the col­lapse of Re­con­struc­tion.”

EJI is also hop­ing that com­mu­ni­ties will build on what the memo­rial rep­re­sents and, it says, “con­front the past with courage, and to be­gin a hope­ful fu­ture in which truth leads to re­pair, restora­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

So start­ing next year, EJI’s “Com­mu­nity Re­mem­brance Project” plans to start dis­tribut­ing repli­cas of the mon­u­ments to coun­ties that would be will­ing to dis­play them pub­licly. The Project is also of­fer­ing to fund and in­stall mark­ers at or near lynch­ing sites that would tell the story of vic­tims like McNeely and McDaniel.

Dur­ing its visit to Mont­gomery, the Char­lotte group met with Project of­fi­cials on what Char­lotte-Meck­len­burg needs to do to pre­pare to re­ceive the mark­ers and the replica of the mon­u­ment.

For now, said Evan Mil­li­gan, a team mem­ber on the Project, “we en­cour­age peo­ple to do the on­go­ing ed­u­ca­tional work.”

A high-pro­file way to do that could in­clude col­lect­ing soil at or near Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium to re­call McNeely’s killing in 1913.

‘CON­NECT­ING THE DOTS’

His­to­rian Grif­fin of Char­lotte’s Levine Mu­seum of the New South said it was ironic that this dis­cov­ery of the his­toric con­nec­tion be­tween the Pan­thers’ sta­dium and a dis­turb­ing episode in Char­lotte’s past comes at a time when some NFL play­ers “have be­come the face of the so­cial jus­tice move­ment in the coun­try, es­pe­cially as it re­lates to po­lice/black com­mu­nity re­la­tions and mass in­car­cer­a­tions.”

Colin Kaeper­nick, a for­mer quar­ter­back with the San Fran­cisco 49ers, be­came a brave hero to some and an un­pa­tri­otic

vil­lain to oth­ers by choos­ing to kneel on one knee rather than stand dur­ing the na­tional an­them as a way to protest racial in­jus­tice in the United States. Many play­ers have fol­lowed his ex­am­ple, ig­nit­ing a con­tro­versy that in­cluded a con­dem­na­tion of the protests by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The Pan­thers, un­der the new own­er­ship of David Tep­per, re­cently signed safety Eric Reid. He was the sec­ond player af­ter Kaeper­nick to take a knee, as the protests are now called. A pic­ture on Reid’s Twit­ter page fea­tures a photo of him and Kaeper­nick, both wear­ing black T-shirts that read “I Know My Rights.”

In its var­i­ous ex­hibits, the mu­seum and memo­rial in Mont­gomery cast mass in­car­cer­a­tion, cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment and po­lice shoot­ings of AfricanAmer­i­cans in re­cent years as mod­ern-day ver­sions of lynch­ing.

“The mu­seum … does a good job of con­nect­ing those dots,” said his­to­rian Moore of Char­lotte.

By the 20th cen­tury, lynch­ing was an es­tab­lished tool of ter­ror in the states of the Old Con­fed­er­acy, in­clud­ing the Caroli­nas.

“The high point of lynch­ing in the South was right around 1900 when the in­tense Jim Crow seg­re­ga­tion went into place,” said Tom Hanchett, a com­mu­nity his­to­rian in Char­lotte who worked for years at the Levine Mu­seum of the New South. “It was part of a pat­tern of racial con­trol.”

A decade later saw the ded­i­ca­tion of a ma­jor­ity of the Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues that have be­come so con­tro­ver­sial to­day, said Grif­fin. “Silent Sam,” the statue of the Con­fed­er­ate soldier re­cently brought down in Chapel Hill, was erected in 1913 – the same year McNeely was gunned down in Char­lotte.

Though McNeely’s case ap­pears to be the first doc­u­mented case of lynch­ing in Meck­len­burg County, there were prob­a­bly many here that were never recorded.

“It would be sur­pris­ing to me if (McNeely’s case) was the first lynch­ing in Meck­len­burg County,” said Dan Mor­rill, con­sult­ing di­rec­tor for the Char­lotte-Meck­len­burg His­toric Land­marks Com­mis­sion. “As a means of so­cial con­trol, there were ear­lier ex­am­ples. Slav­ery was ba­si­cally all about con­trol.”

Hanchett sec­onded Moore’s cal­cu­la­tion that the lynch­ing hap­pened on grounds now in­side the sta­dium.

“It used to be Mint Street was straight where the sta­dium is,” he said. “Hill Street ran through the the sta­dium. And the hos­pi­tal was one house in from Mint.”

Hanchett said the new fo­cus on where this first doc­u­mented lo­cal lynch­ing took place is a re­minder that “this his­tory is all around us. It’s not some­thing we can just get away from. It hap­pened here. … And his­tory shapes who we are right here right now.”

MATT WALSH [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium sits on the for­mer site of Good Sa­mar­i­tan Hos­pi­tal, which long cared for African-Amer­i­cans in Char­lotte. In 1913, Joe McNeely, a 19-year-old black la­borer, was shot to death by a white mob on the steps of the hos­pi­tal.

AU­DRA MEL­TON NYT

Hun­dreds of jars of soil from doc­u­mented lynch­ing sites are dis­played at the Legacy Mu­seum, part of the Na­tional Memo­rial for Peace and Jus­tice in Mont­gomery, Ala.

Char­lotte Ob­server file photo

A Red Cross vol­un­teer iden­ti­fied in 1970 as Mrs. Fulton Tad­lock, left, and nurse Mrs. T. L. Strong help an uniden­ti­fied pa­tient pick out a bou­quet at Good Sa­mar­i­tan Hos­pi­tal.

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