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Historic Charlotte Neighborhoods

This guide provides histories of minority communities in Charlotte, some of which have disappeared or been gentrified, but many are very much alive.

History of Grier Heights

Grier Heights’ identity as a black community runs all the way back to the 1890s, when former slave Sam Billings bought 100 acres of land in the area — the first recorded time an African-American bought l& in Charlotte. 

Grier Heights originated as a farming community of four houses in 1886. The community, originally called Grier Town, was a suburb that was home to lower-income families as well as middle-class blacks, some of whom were teachers, masons, or worked for the U.S. Postal Service.2 By the 1920s, Grier Heights was home to several of Charlotte’s prominent black residents, including Arthur Samuel Grier, a funeral-home director for whom the community is named, & James McVay, founder of Grier Heights’ Antioch Baptist Church.2 In 1907, Sam Billings, John Jackson, Arthur S. Grier, Lee Father MacDuff Dinkins, & James McVay purchased additional land. The neighborhood grew slowly until the 1940s, when prominent African-American businessman Arthur S. Grier built 100 homes that were sold to black soldiers returning from World War II.

In 1927, landowners pursued the need for a school, however the Board of Education offered only a frame structure. Instead, the community, supervised by Nellie B. Dykes raised $505.00. The School Board Committee granted another $500 & the Rosenwald Fund provided funds as well. Sam Billings sold two acres & donated an additional acre for the school. The school came to be known as Billingsville School, which offered grades 1 thru 9 until Randolph Junior High School was built in the 1960s.3 Today, Billingsville School has been renovated into the Grier Heights Community Center. A low cost medical clinic, adult literacy tutoring & GED classes are offered at the center.4

Like many other inner-city neighborhoods, Grier Heights faces gentrification, houses being converted to rental property, & other issues that are all-too-familiar to many communities in the Charlotte area. The neighborhood, bordered by Randolph, Wendover, Monroe, & Briar Creek Roads,5 is adjacent to several highly sought after & extremely affluent neighborhoods. Residents, however, have continued the community’s tradition of resilience by working with local non-profits such as CrossRoads Corp., Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department,6 & the Grier Heights Community Improvement Organization Board Retreat, hosted by the City of Charlotte in 2014.7

Sources:

  1. Grier Heights is nearing a tipping point. Will another black community vanish?, Accessed August 8, 2018, https://www.charlotteagenda.com/95774/grier-heights-nearing-tipping-point-will-another-black-community-vanish/ 
  2. Now known as Grier Heights, Jimmie Kirkpatrick’s neighborhood carries on, Accessed August 8, 2018 https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/special-reports/myers-park/article9087020.html
  3. Neighborhood Link National Network, "Grier Heights a Proud & Historically Progressive Neighborhood," Grier Heights Community Improvement Org, accessed April 25, 2018, http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/Grier_Heights_Community_Improvement_Org/pages/149596.
  4. "At the Center of the Grier Heights Community," Grier Heights Community Center, accessed April 25, 2018, https://www.grierheightscommunitycenter.org/.
  5. Neighborhood Link National Network, "Grier Heights," Grier Heights Community Improvement Org.
  6. "Grier Heights Neighborhood Initiative-Baker One District." Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Accessed April 25, 2018. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1999/99-05.pdf.
  7. "Grier Heights Community Improvement Organization." City of Charlotte. Accessed April 25, 2018. http://charlottenc.gov/HNS/CE/BoardSupport/New%20Board%20Summaries/Grier%20Heights.pdf

  8.  

Resources in Atkins Library

Manuscripts & Rare Books

MS 350. Charlotte Redevelopment Commission records. Collection includes photographs, 1963-1966.

Oral History Interviews

James Ross

2005 March 22, Mr. Ross discusses his experiences with racial segregation & civil rights activism in Charlotte. Growing up in rural Grier Heights, Mr. Ross attended Billingsville Rosenwald Elementary School & Clear Creek High School before being transferred to the urban Second Ward High School as a result of city expansion.

Kathleen Crosby

2001 October 1, MS. Crosby recounts her forty-year career as an educator in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), as well as her involvement in the civil rights movement in Charlotte. She discusses how she was brought in as the principal of Billingsville Elementary (in Grier Heights) in the early months of busing & turned the school into a successful model of school integration.

Historic Sites in Grier Heights