By Stephen Samuel Smith
Explores political and academic facets of Charlotte's nationally praised college desegregation efforts.
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Additional info for Boom for Whom?: Education, Desegregation, and Development in Charlotte
Further contributing to African American political inﬂuence was a situation in Charlotte basically captured by Stone’s observation about the state of political organization in Atlanta: “Labor unions are weak, and the working class has little political voice. By contrast, the business sector is well organized, and it has a long history of exercising leadership . . ” 33 To be sure, since blacks comprise a much larger percentage of Atlanta’s population than Charlotte’s (approximately 62 percent, as opposed to approximately 33 percent in 2000), Stone’s statement is not fully applicable to Charlotte.
Moreover, the boundary between the exertion of pressure and the realignment of relationships is a porous one because today’s pressure can easily become tomorrow’s realigned relationship and contribution to critical policy tasks. That point is especially well illustrated by the civil rights movement. Although many of its more farsighted participants may have envisioned a world in which relations among races would be very different in a mutually beneﬁcial manner, an appeal to a shared identity was hardly the movement’s main strategy, to say nothing of its tactics.
Moreover, the generally harmonious relationship between the business elite and black political leadership was occasionally punctuated by sharp conﬂicts, perhaps most notably the 1977 battle over district representation on Charlotte’s city council. However, when the dust cleared, that battle served, I will argue in chapter 8, to strengthen this coalition and facilitate Charlotte’s development. The operation of the coalition was especially evident in city politics. Even though the school system is coterminous with the county and important differences exist between city and county politics, what happens at the city level greatly affects county-wide developments, if only because North Carolina’s permissive annexation laws have allowed the city to continue to include within its borders over three-fourths of the county’s population and most of its economic activity.