About the Project

This album grew out of a year long project developed to address a gap in this community's local historical record and a need to preserve the visual history of the black community in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Although the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room held a collection of approximately five thousand photographic prints and close to seven million negatives, there was little representation of blacks and their accomplishments and contributions to our history before this project was initiated. Photographs from the black community were, for the most part, still held by individuals. They were not available to researchers or the community at large and they were at risk, often stored in less than ideal conditions and subject to loss and damage. A project to locate, duplicate, preserve and make these photographs available to a wider audience was conceived by Carolina Room staff and received the enthusiastic support of Library Administration.
The project was launched with a sold out benefit performance by actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee at Spirit Square Center for the Arts on February 6, 1991, during the Library's annual celebration of Black History Month. The response was overwhelming. During three day-long sessions held at the library in February, individuals from the community brought in over 1500 photographs. Professional photographers volunteered their time to copy the photographs and other volunteers and library staff recorded information about each print as it was received. It was an exhilarating experience for all as memories and stories from the past were shared among both friends and strangers.

Photographer Al Ricks
Photographer Al Ricks volunteers his time to copy photographs for the project. Photo by Jane Johnson.