Editor’s note: The first three articles in this series chronicled the history of Charlotte’s black families, highlighting community landmarks and festivals and homecomings. This final installment will address a pivotal factor for community success − education.

By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published March 24, 2011

Dickson County schools were not integrated until August 1965, 11 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in public schools based on race was unconstitutional.

Before and after integration, African−Americans in Charlotte and throughout the county experienced the harshness and inequality of Jim Crow daily, especially in the public school system.

One−room schools

Until county school’s integrated, black children growing up in the Charlotte area attended Cedar Grove School, Newport School (The Coaling) and Promise Land School (Promise Land), among several other all−black schools in the county.

Charlotte proper’s Cedar Grove School, formerly located in the current F&AM Prince Hall on Picnic Street, operated at the turn of the 20th Century as “Charlotte School No. 1 for Coloreds,” with McPherson Lanier and then Ella Robertson instructing classes during this period.

The school had a single classroom for grades 1−8, with outdoor restrooms and a well to drink from and wash hands. A wood stove heated the building, and opening windows and doors cooled it.

Tommie Gilbert taught the school’s students throughout the 1950s until the school closed in 1965, after integration formally began.

Elaine Primm Haggins, who attended Cedar Grove, explained that learning was difficult with so many different grade levels in a single classroom. Her aunt, “Miss Tommie” would separate the grades throughout the classroom and instruct them individually, before moving on to the next grade.

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