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JCSU To Showcase Black Communities Destroyed By Urban Renewal

A historically Black university in Charlotte, North Carolina (Johnson C. Smith University) is launching a virtual-reality project to showcase Black neighborhoods torn apart by urban renewal.

In March, JCSU announced that they received $307,000 worth of grants to reconstruct two cities that were destroyed by Urban Renewal. The computer generated development will be based on old photographs, city documents and interviews with former residents.

The Knight Foundation, National Parks Service and National Historical Publications and Records Commission all contributed to this project. UNC Charlotte, Levine Museum of the New South and the Duke Digital Humanities Lab are partners in the project and will work with JCSU on research and 3D modeling.

73-year old Arthur Griffin Jr. a former resident and former Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools chairman, said he hopes the project will provide a historical context for Black youth and others with no knowledge of Charlotte before urban renewal, which saw entire Black communities, and their economic underpinnings, obliterated.

“It was a thriving community, and urban renewal took that away,” he said. “And I don’t think we’ve recovered from it.”

A primary purpose of urban renewal is to restore economic viability to a given area by attracting external private and public investment and by encouraging business start-ups and survival.

In the process of trying to expand and update what is deemed a “rundown area”, urban renewal can also destroy buildings that have cultural heritage, relocate businesses and people, and tear apart communities.

JCSU says they eventually want to make the project accessible to visitors at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

©2019 by URBAN NEWS