Uncovering Charlotte’s first documented lynching

Published: Apr. 23, 2019 at 9:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The well-known home of the Carolina Panthers was the scene of a bizarre murder mystery that unfolded more than 100 years ago.

Valuable center city is now occupied by Bank of America Stadium, but in August of 1913 the team’s turf became the site of Charlotte’s very first racially-motivated lynching.

Historian Willie Griffin of the Levine Museum of the New South remains deeply intrigued by the newspaper accounts.

What’s known is Joe McNeely was involved in a shootout with a Charlotte policeman.

Both were wounded.

The white officer was taken to Presbyterian Hospital and survived.

McNeely, a black man, was transported to the African American-operated Good Samaritan Hospital.

“Some say that a group as large as 70, another version says 30 masked men gathered around 1:00 in the morning and stormed the hospital,”Griffin told WBTV. ”Drug him out of his hospital bed into the front of the hospital and they riddled him with bullets and they just disappeared."

Civil Rights Attorney Bryan Stephenson heads up the Equal Justice Initiative and was one of the driving forces behind this lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

The exhibit part of The National Memorial For Peace And Justice pays tribute to the thousands of lynching victims who died violently in the 19th and 20th century.

They were mainly black and most of the killings happened in the South.

“We’re doing something unique in this country at a time when it’s desperately needed,”Stephenson said.

Back in March, two busloads of Charlotte’s civic and business leaders went to Alabama and came face to face with names, places and the unjust past by walking through this painful display.

Among them was Robert Bush of the Arts and Science Council.

Bush said, “If we do not understand that part of our history in the country and the community’s history in that history. We can never come to grips with some of the things we’re dealing with today.”

Comprehending the horror brought a swift response.

Work is currently underway at the Levine Museum of The New South to open a lynching exhibit connected to Alabama’s legacy museum.

“The exhibit is part of a community wide effort,”Griffin explained.

Back at Bank of America Stadium, a placard honors the legacy of Good Samaritan hospital, and several community events will recognize the life of Joe McNeely.

Those who studied the case said he was shot to death near the 20-yard line.

“This is not asking for forgiveness. It’s asking for understanding and respect for those who lost their lives because of mob rule,”Bush said.

Several events are planned in spring and summer to honor the life of Joe McNeely.

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