In the decades following World War II, the pace of change in the Charlotte area was greater than at virtually any other time in the region’s 250-year history. But nothing in these exciting and turbulent times overshadowed the breadth and depth of the work of African Americans toward gaining economic and social equality.
It was against this backdrop that Harald Hansen, Rev. George Battle, Kathleen Crosby, David Taylor, the Chamber of Commerce, elected officials, and other leaders came together to explore the need for an organization that would help ensure racial inclusion and the economic self-sufficiency of the area’s African American citizens.
The group commissioned a study to explore minority conditions in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The study, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University, found that Charlotte’s African American population had only half the median income and high school graduation rates of whites and double the unemployment. It concluded that there was a strong need for an organization that would give priority attention to minority needs, particularly in the jobs and skill training area.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Urban League, a multi-service, non-profit agency, was incorporated November 6, 1978. It was the nation’s 116th affiliate of the National Urban League, the 31st in the South, and the 4th in the Carolinas.
After a year of fundraising and planning, the organization received its charter in May 1979. With a $50,000 annual budget and 150 members, the League began to actively study the myriad of problems experienced by minorities in employment, housing, education, health and other areas, and to develop programs aimed at solving those problems. The League was housed in an office at the First Union National Bank in downtown Charlotte.
In the summer of 1979, the League started one of its first projects - the search for poor and unemployed people to fill some 100 jobs in major Charlotte businesses. This project established the Urban League as the prime provider of services needed to supply jobs in the private industry under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) of 1978, and for the first time, the private sector became involved in hiring CETA-qualified workers on a permanent basis.
Two years later in 1981, the United Way recognized the League’s purpose and successes. The League became a United Way member and began to receive annual funding from the organization.
Milestones In Urban League of Central Carolinas History
- 1983: Established Teens ‘N Touch, a program focused on preventing pregnancy and on encouraging academic achievement.
- 1984: Opened its Job Training Center, providing on-the-job computer training and classroom instruction to area adults.
- 1985: IBM Corp. enabled the League to establish a summer work and education program for disadvantaged youth.
- 1987: Created the Educational Initiatives Task Force to recommend solutions for closing the achievement gap between black and white students.
- 1990: Established career fairs, Teen Job Exchange, employment workshops, and pre-entry programs to link people with jobs.
- 1992: Annual essay and public speaking contest was introduced. More than 380 students from 30 public and private elementary, middle, and high schools participated.
- 1994: Computer and Office System Training Center (formerly Job Training Center) celebrated 10 years of service. More than were 500 trained, with over 90% of graduates placed in jobs.
- 1994: Boys 2 Men, a component of Teens ‘N Touch program, was created to provide positive male role models for young men.
- 1995: Launched Summer Options in Arts and Recreation (SOAR) to enrich the lives of children through dance, drama, and music.
- 1996: Cultural Diversity Workshops were created to help corporate managers develop skills to better understand, value, manage, and appreciate diversity.
- 1997: Whitney M. Young honoree Joe Martin called for the conquering of the “molehills” of prejudice, inspiring the first official “Race Day” in Charlotte.
- 1999: Recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor with an Exemplary Public Interest Contribution Award.
- 2000: Partnered with Maximus Corporation to run the City of Charlotte’s Welfare to Work Program.
- 2001: Expanded services to Union County.
- 2002: Opens four “Make A Difference Centers” in Charlotte. Five hundred children have the opportunity for after school enrichment and tutorial support.
- 2003: YOU joined the Urban League of Central Carolinas and began “Changing Lives for the Better!”
- 2003: Celebrated 25th Anniversary. More than 15,000 lives touched by services of the Urban League. “Linking Youth to Technology Through Education” Centers opened to bridge digital divide for minority youths.
- 2004: Initiated a new federal grant program to serve 18-21 year old adjudicated youth.
- 2005: Participated in an international study and went to Mexico with 24 other business leaders.
- 2006: Joined the Blue Diamond Winner’s Circle and received the NPower Charlotte Region First Place Award for 2006 for Nonprofit Excellence in Information Technology”