Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle over Educational Equality

At a time when race and inequality dominate national debates, the story of West Charlotte High School illuminates the possibilities and challenges of using racial and economic desegregation to foster educational equality. West Charlotte opened in 1938 as a segregated school that embodied the aspirations of the growing African American population of Charlotte, North Carolina. In the 1970s, when Charlotte began court-ordered busing, black and white families made West Charlotte the celebrated flagship of the most integrated major school system in the nation. But as the twentieth century neared its close and a new court order eliminated race-based busing, Charlotte schools resegregated along lines of class as well as race. West Charlotte became the city’s poorest, lowest-performing high school—a striking reminder of the people and places that Charlotte’s rapid growth had left behind. While dedicated teachers continue to educate children, the school’s challenges underscore the painful consequences of resegregation.

Drawing on nearly two decades of interviews with students, educators, and alumni, Pamela Grundy uses the history of a community’s beloved school to tell a broader American story of education, community, democracy, and race—all while raising questions about present-day strategies for school reform.

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    By Charles LaBorde on October 10, 2017

    Blueprint for Successful Integration–A Dream Realized and Then Deferred I was delighted to read this comprehensive history of a school I worked in for six glorious years. I must say it is odd to see yourself mentioned and quoted in a book, to be listed in the Index and in the Bibliography.The book chronicles the rise and later decline of West Charlotte High as a brave and groundbreaking experiment in the best way to develop an integrated high school in America. In addition to being part of the golden years– proudly initiated into the “Order of the…

    By Gary Weart on October 10, 2017

    Some of the best years of my life were spent as a teacher … Some of the best years of my life were spent as a teacher and coach at this amazing and historic high school. West Charlotte High School is near and dear to many hearts, including mine. Ms. Pamela Grundy’s book “Color and Character” truly captures the essence of this unique school and its incredible legacies. The hope is that by reviewing the various stages in this book that the school has experienced, for almost 80 years, will add valuable lessons, insights, and hope for the realm of…

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