- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- UNC Charlotte Honors College and Charlotte Action Research Project Interviews on Charlotte Neighborhoods
- Small But Significant : The Optimist Park Community
- James L. Atkinson oral history interview, 2015 October 22
James L. Atkinson oral history interview, 2015 October 22
James Atkinson discusses his life and his family's long term involvement with the Optimist Park neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, including his role as an adviser to the Optimist Park Community Association. He describes the challenges of growing up in a single-parent household, and the many moves he and his siblings made in both South Carolina and Charlotte until his mother settled in the adjacent Belmont neighborhood around 1970. Mr. Atkinson stresses his belief that education is a channel for upward mobility, and although he notes the difficulties of attending school during integration, he credits his teachers at Garinger High School for pushing him to attain a professional career. Mr. Atkinson also notes the significance of his involvement in the Model Cities Program as a child, which instilled in him a love of learning. Reflecting on the gentrification of Optimist Park, Mr. Atkinson discusses the effect of generational poverty on the ability of inner-urban neighborhoods to continue to thrive in the face of development. He explains that many of his neighbors are intimidated by the rapid changes they are observing, but are often unaware of the threat that development poses to community cohesion.