Four Bomb Blasts Propelled Charlotte Into Civil Rights Movement In 1965
CHARLOTTE — Charlotte remained moderate and out of the spotlight of the Civil Rights Movement until 1965. Kelly Alexander, Jr, was just 17 years-old in 1965, and a student at the all black West Charlotte High School.
“Violence was always something that you read about in the newspapers or you saw on television somewhere else,” says State Representative Kelly Alexander, Jr.
His parents, along with so many other African Americans during the 1960’s, were in the midst of a major push for desegregation. Alexander’s father, Kelly Sr., led the North Carolina NAACP.
“He was traveling all the time all over the place especially in North Carolina,” says Alexander. His father visited mostly small communities urging black people to register to vote.
“From the standpoint of segregationists he was an agitator,” says Alexander.
His uncle, Fred Alexander, was also a member of the NAACP, and ran the organization’s voter registration and education activities. Civil Rights Attorney, Julius Chambers, another vital figure in Charlotte, pushed for equality. Dr. Reginald Hawkins, NAACP leader and visionary, was known as the Father of Charlotte’s Civil Rights Movement.
All four men, NAACP leaders in Charlotte, making a loud noise for change, and people were listening. There was peace in Charlotte until one cold November night in 1965. Four bombs propelled the Queen City into the battle over civil rights.
“I remember hearing what I interpreted as thunder off in the distance. And, the next thing I knew there was a blinding light,” says Alexander.
Dynamite ripped through the Alexander home.
“Basically, the front of the house was gone,” he says.
“The windows were very high. The explosive had been placed at the front of the house on the porch” says Alexander.
But, it wasn’t just the Alexander home bombed that night. The homes of Chambers, Hawkins, and Alexander’s Uncle Fred’s home right next door, also exploded. No one got hurt. Police began a lengthy investigation. There was outrage from the community that something so violent could happen in Charlotte.
“More and more folks started vocally expressing the fact that the community needed to come together in solidarity. That was one of the reasons why the community started working to repair everybody’s homes,” he says.
Charlotte Mayor Stan Brookshire, along with thousands of others attended a rally at Oven’s Auditorium to denounce the violence.
“The very fact that right after that bombing people of different ideological perspectives, people of different races came together to say never again. This is not what we want to have our city to be remembered for,” says Alexander.
The FBI investigated the bombing for decades, but no one was ever arrested.
Fred Alexander became the first black member of the Charlotte City Council since Reconstruction.