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Historic west end mural

This mural is a colorful welcome to the five historically Black neighborhoods of Historic West End. The house represents mid-century modern architecture, the common style of homes built in the surrounding area. Within the Black community, your home is your heart, your safe space, and a place of pride. 

Adinkra are symbols from Ghana. The yellow Sankofa symbol by the door means “to retrieve,” or to go back into your history and use the information to move forward. The ice cream scoop is topped with another adinkra symbol, along with nods to other neighborhood markers. The Adinkrahene symbol, made up of concentric circles, represents the oneness and interconnectedness of all things.Many believe this is the first Adinkra symbol that all others derive from. You’ll also see the Dogwood flower - inspired by another area mural - a street car, the flag and gates of Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), and a paintbrush because we are all artists at heart.

James (Jimmie) and Minnie McKee, creators of the Excelsior Club, look out the top window of the home. Sitting on the bench below, from left to right, are Dr. Reginald Hawkins, Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy, and J. Charles Jones (Mr. J). Jatanya Adams stands to the left of Mr. Jones. There is a space for you to “sit” on the bench with our community leaders and feel like you’re at home, getting to know your neighbors. The little girl wearing JCSU colors is a nod to the future. Read further to learn more about the important historical figures highlighted in this mural. 

Jimmie McKee (1912-1985) and Minnie McKee established the first Black-owned club in Charlotte, the Excelsior Club, in 1944. The club became the leading private black social club in the Southeast, hosting notable musicians like Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and James Brown. “Jimmie McKee was an early visionary in protecting and providing equal opportunities for African Americans,” current owner Darius Anderson said. “For more than 70 years, it was the place to be for Black professionals, artists, and politicians thinking about running for office.”

Dr. Reginald Hawkins (1923-2007) was an Army Veteran during WWII and went on to graduate from Johnson C. Smith University in 1943. He was a dentist and a civil rights activist who fought to desegregate schools and hospitals in Charlotte.

Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy (b. 1944) is an academic, professor, and administrator. She graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in 1964. She was the first African-American professor to hold tenure at Georgia Tech. She served as the first female president of Johnson C. Smith University from 1994 to 2009. While there, she helped rebuild Biddle Hall, raised over $145 million for the university, and increased applications by 300%. Yancy became the first female member and later, the first female board president of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). She is now president of Shaw University.


J. Charles Jones (1937-2019) was a civil rights leader, attorney, and founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He started attending Johnson C. Smith University in 1960. Inspired by a sit-in protest at the Greensboro Woolworths, Jones led the first sit-in at the Charlotte Woolworths, with over 200 Johnson C. Smith students in attendance. He led protest movements in Albany, GA in 1962 and was arrested with Martin Luther King Jr. He also participated in the Freedom Riders movement throughout Georgia and Alabama, riding buses in the segregated South to challenge non-enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling bus segregation unconstitutional. After his career of activism, he settled in Biddleville.

J’Tanya Adams is the founder and Executive Director of Historic West End Partners, a 501-c3 advocating for cultural preservation and economic development in Historic West End. She also co-founded The Greater West Coalition and Five Points Collaborative Community.  

This community mural project for the residents and businesses of Historic West End was funded by the City of Charlotte Placemaking Grant.

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