Saturday, September 24, 2016

"To understand Charlotte’s rage, you have to understand its roads"

When time came to build the country’s interstate highways, the engineers who consulted local politicians on where they should pave found a swift answer: the Brooklyns and McCrorey Heightses of many American cities were split apart, torn down, and dismantled in the name of transportation progress.

The black doctors and university professors who lived in McCrorey Heights used to be able to walk to work at Johnson C Smith University while their kids walked to school at Biddleville Elementary, down a street lined with black-owned businesses.

“A new expressway went through in the 1960s, wiped out a street of houses, wiped out the school, wiped out the businesses,” said Hanchett. “Economic segregation was already coming into focus. But the interstates created moats.”

When the road projects scattered black Charlotte, it wasn’t like people could just transplant their communities wholesale and start over en masse. Some were left behind in half-communities bottled in by roads.