- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Civil Rights and Desegregation in Charlotte
- James E. Ferguson II oral history interview, 2001 November 28
James E. Ferguson II oral history interview, 2001 November 28
James Ferguson, a partner at the first integrated law firm in North Carolina, recounts his life's work fighting for civil rights in the state. His involvement with social justice began when he was still in high school, where he helped found the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality, which successfully negotiated the desegregation of Asheville's public facilities. Mr. Ferguson explains his role in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and describes the community's reaction to school integration. He argues against the popular narrative of Charlotte as the "city that made desegregation work" with examples from his experience, including the school board's resistance to integration at the time of the Supreme Court ruling and how the board continued to subvert the spirit of Judge McMillan's requirement of "equal distribution" through busing and new school development policies through the present date of interview. Mr. Ferguson shares what he sees as the most positive outcomes of school integration, including a higher quality of education for African American students, and how exposure to each other has benefited both white and black students and strengthened the community as a whole. He also discusses his involvement with the "Charlotte Three" case and how, despite the government's fears at the time, Charlotte lacked any real radical movement. The interview closes with his thoughts on the future of race relations in Charlotte. Despite the city's growing diversity, he foresees continued tensions as the fight over neighborhood schools and the push to re-segregate the school system increases as a result of the appeals court's 2001 affirmation of the district court's 1999 ruling ending mandatory busing in the reactivated Swann case.