Sorting Out the New South City

Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975

By Thomas W. Hanchett

404 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 61 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6188-2
    Published: October 2017

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 1999 Best Book Award, Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians

One of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the South, Charlotte, North Carolina, came of age in the New South decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, transforming itself from a rural courthouse village to the trading and financial hub of America's premier textile manufacturing region. In this book, Thomas Hanchett traces the city's spatial evolution over the course of a century, exploring the interplay of national trends and local forces that shaped Charlotte, and, by extension, other New South urban centers.

Hanchett argues that racial and economic segregation are not age-old givens, but products of a decades-long process. Well after the Civil War, Charlotte's whites and blacks, workers and business owners, all lived intermingled in a "salt-and-pepper" pattern. The rise of large manufacturing enterprises in the 1880s and 1890s brought social and political upheaval, however, and the city began to sort out into a "checkerboard" of distinct neighborhoods segregated by both race and class. When urban renewal and other federal funds became available in the mid- twentieth century, local leaders used the money to complete the sorting out process, creating a "sector" pattern in which wealthy whites increasingly lived on one side of town and blacks on the other.

About the Author

Thomas W. Hanchett taught urban history and history preservation at Youngstown State University and Cornell University before becoming the staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte.
For more information about Thomas W. Hanchett, visit the Author Page.


"This is a southern story of the emergence of mercantile, industrial, banking, and real estate entrepreneurs and how they shaped a city in an era of black disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, and the waning political power of white workers. . . . [Hanchett] provides a broad context for understanding that the shape of our cities is far from happenstance."--Southern Cultures

"Engaging wider narratives and historiographical debates, meticulously mapping local particularities, and building upon years of experience in the city’s historic preservation effort, Hanchett not only illuminates Charlotte's contested past but also makes a significant contribution to American urban history."--Journal of American History

"This excellent study gives the city the attention it deserves, especially now that it has emerged as a major international financial center. . . . Chronicles Charlotte’s history through the lens of its landscape and spatial profile: the shape and character of its neighborhoods, land uses, street patterns, and populations. . . . Hanchett's judgments are thoughtful and well-supported, and the result is a most worthwhile addition to the literature on the urban South."--American Historical Review

"This well-crafted and extremely readable study of a small city and its development should be a touchstone for comparative analysis in both southern and urban history."--Choice

"An excellent case study of long-term urban growth."--Winston-Salem Journal

"An original and wonderfully resourceful study. Hanchett couples his close reading of the changing physical landscape of Charlotte with documentation from diverse sources to provide a new understanding of American and southern urban history. Sorting Out the New South City offers fresh and even inspiring insights into how our cities--and our lives--came to be what they are at the end of the twentieth century."--Catherine W. Bishir, author of North Carolina Architecture