Bittersweet Legacy

The Black and White 'Better Classes' in Charlotte, 1850-1910

By Janette Thomas Greenwood

334 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4956-9
    Published: February 2001
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6178-3
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6593-9
    Published: November 2000

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Awards & distinctions

A 1995 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

1995 History Book Award, North Carolina Society of Historians

Bittersweet Legacy is the dramatic story of the relationship between two generations of black and white southerners in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 1850 to 1910. Janette Greenwood describes the interactions between black and white business and professional people--the 'better classes,' as they called themselves. Her book paints a surprisingly complex portrait of race and class relations in the New South and demonstrates the impact of personal relationships, generational shifts, and the interplay of local, state, and national events in shaping the responses of black and white southerners to each other and the world around them. Greenwood argues that concepts of race and class changed significantly in the late nineteenth century. Documenting the rise of interracial social reform movements in the 1880s, she suggests that the 'better classes' briefly created an alternative vision of race relations. The disintegration of the alliance as a result of New South politics and a generational shift in leadership left a bittersweet legacy for Charlotte that would weigh heavily on its citizens well into the twentieth century.

About the Author

Janette Thomas Greenwood is associate professor of history at Clark University.
For more information about Janette Thomas Greenwood, visit the Author Page.


"Greenwood tells Charlotte's complicated story well. Indeed, throughout her study she provides a wonderfully nuanced account of the politics, institution building, city development, culture, and society of the city. . . . Local history at its best."--American Historical Review

"A sophisticated treatment of the interplay between class and race that moves the discussion into rich, new areas. . . . A rewarding book."--Choice

"A new and important story about the lost opportunities for interracial cooperation. . . . This solid and satisfying work is one of the few to examine the social foundations and political efforts of [African American] middle-class groups without romanticizing their achievements or lamenting their limitations."--Journal of American History

"We have Janette Thomas Greenwood to thank for helping to initiate the discussion of postwar race and class relations, uncovering new information on the postwar black community, and suggesting the rich potential of the sources."--Journal of Social History

"Janette Greenwood has written a fascinating and important study of class formation and its effects on race relations in a New South town. Her analysis of the values of the black 'better class' in this era has applicability far beyond Charlotte."--Paul Escott, Wake Forest University

"An engaging portrait of postbellum southern race relations, [this book] provides much original evidence of interracial coalition, cooperation, and fluidity prior to the nadir of black disfranchisement and legal Jim Crow."--Raymond Gavins, Duke University