What is now Uptown, Charlotte’s main business district, was historically known as Brooklyn, the center of the city’s black community. One of Uptown’s main attractions is now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture, an important art museum in a city that is, over 150 years after the Civil War, still divided along racial lines. Providing well-rounded insight into the black communities of both Charlotte and the South as a whole, the museum presents art exhibits, stage performances, lectures and more.
Named for a prominent local architect who served as Charlotte’s first black mayor in the 1980s, the museum’s modern building features an outdoor staircase called “Jacob’s Ladder,” a powerful symbol of African-American ascent through education and enlightenment. A unique pattern of slanted lines symbolizes textile patterns used in West Africa and in quilts during the Underground Railroad era.
The Gantt Center’s main art collection includes works by local artist Romare Bearden, as well as 19th-century painter Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African-American artist to gain international acclaim. Rotating exhibits include a wide variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture and video, and lectures, demonstrations and classes illustrate traditional African dance, music theory, theatre, “slam” poetry and more.