Karen Flint Student Project on Second Ward

Rosena H. Gaines oral history interview, 2004 March 25
Rosena H. Gaines describes her early life in Charlotte's Brooklyn neighborhood, and her experiences as both a student and a teacher at Second Ward High School. As a student at Second Ward, Mrs. Gaines recalls an active and involved student body participating in student organizations, sporting events, and after-school activities. She then recounts the close-knit relationships she formed with students and their parents after returning to Second Ward High School as a teacher. Mrs. Gaines also recalls her experiences mentoring and motivating troubled youth. Specifically, she discusses her use of unconventional methods to reform unruly student behaviors as well as her efforts to encourage her students to be ambitious and to set high academic goals. She also describes the sense of love and community spirit throughout Brooklyn and how that was lost when the neighborhood was demolished during the 1960s as a part of Charlotte's urban renewal program. In particular, she discusses the Brooklyn community's ambivalent reaction to urban renewal. Mrs. Gaines recounts how some community members did not want to block economic progress, while many other people opposed urban renewal but felt that their opinions had no effect on the outcome.
Barbara C. Steele oral history interview, 2004 April 1
Barbara Steele recounts her childhood and life in Brooklyn, a historic African American neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, before it was torn down during urban renewal in the 1960s. She describes how close-knit and self-sufficient the community was. In particular, Mrs. Steele discusses the supportive atmosphere the teachers created at Second Ward High School, describing it as a second home. She also talks about the Queen City Classic, an annual football game between Second Ward and West Charlotte high schools that was a major social event for Charlotte's African American high school students and community. Mrs. Steele then discusses how urban renewal destroyed her neighborhood. She relates how residents fruitlessly spoke out against the project, and her family's failed legal battle with the city over adequate compensation for their homes.