21st Century

20th Century

MAY 20, 1902

MAY 21 – 24, 1906

MAY 20, 1909

MAY 20, 1916

MAY 21, 1918

MAY 20, 1922

MAY 20, 1925

MAY 20, 1939

MAY 20, 1940

IN THE YEAR 1941

MAY 20, 1948

MAY 20, 1954

MAY 20, 1968

MAY 20, 1975

IN THE YEAR 1982

MAY 20, 1996 – 2002

19th Century

18th Century

MAY 20, 1902
The Shipp Monument, memorialized the life of Lt. W. E. Shipp, a fallen North Carolina soldier of the Spanish-American War. It originally was placed by the Federal Post Office and U. S. Mint. Today it stands on Graham Street, behind the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte.

MAY 21 – 24, 1906
The U. S. troops of Infantry, Calvary and Marines performed exhibition drills. The U. S. Marine Band played during the exercises.“The celebration of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is notable from the fact that it is the first time the United States Government has accorded the occasion official recognition.”The Charlotte Daily Observer, 5/20/1906

MAY 20, 1909
President William H. Taft
attends the Mecklenburg Declaration commemoration at 700 E. Trade Street in Charlotte, then makes a special guest appearance at Biddle University, now Johnson C. Smith University, to address the students and faculty.


photos courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room

MAY 20, 1916
President Woodrow Wilson
and his wife attend the Mecklenburg Declaration celebration as do approximately 100,000 revelers. Click the picture below for a larger version.

Click HERE to read the President’s speech, courtesy of Princeton University Press.

MAY 21, 1918
French troops, known as the Blue Devils, are in Charlotte taking a break from their war-torn land. They join the celebration with locals and visitors at E. 7th and Tryon Street.


photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room

MAY 20, 1922
General George Pershing, Commander-in-Chief American Expeditionary Forces, attends the Mecklenburg Declaration celebration.

MAY 20, 1925
The U.S. Congress appoints a special commission to attend that year’s commemoration; New York Time Magazine writes an article entitled “No Reason to Doubt.”

MAY 20, 1939
The North Carolina General Assembly holds a Special Session in Charlotte.

MAY 20, 1940
The First Mecklenburg Independence Festival includes the Queens Ball, a speech from the Governor and a Festival Queen.

IN THE YEAR 1941
An August issue of National Geographic shows a picture of Charlotte’s Square (intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets) at rush hour and four women in colonial costumes holding the North Carolina flag to relay our history of the Mecklenburg Declaration to its readers.

MAY 20, 1948
The Mecklenburg Historical Society presents symphonic drama “Shout Freedom” kicking off several years of entertainment focus on the commemorations.

MAY 20, 1954
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
attends the Mecklenburg Declaration celebration; 30,000 people attend at Freedom Park for Freedom Celebration Day.  Click photo to watch a news clip covering his visit.

MAY 20, 1963
Charlotte Civil Rights activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins
, led a march from Johnson C. Smith University to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and declared “We shall not be pacified with gradualism; we shall not be satisfied with tokenism.  We want freedom and we want it now.”

MAY 20, 1968
First Lady Bird Johnson
attends the Mecklenburg Declaration celebration.

MAY 20, 1975
President General Ford
attends the Mecklenburg Declaration celebration. Over 110,000 people gather to hear the President speak in Freedom Park; the Charlotte Observer headline is “County Declares Independence.” A rider reenacts the famous ride by James Jack by taking the Mecklenburg Declaration by horseback from Charlotte to Philadelphia. It is the high-tide of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence commemoration. Within a decade, it will be largely forgotten.

IN THE YEAR 1982
To account for the addition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a new holiday, the City of Charlotte removes May 20 as an official city holiday. It is the beginning of the decline of May 20 as a public commemoration in Charlotte and widespread amnesia about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

MAY 20, 1996 – 2002
The 1st Noon Observance is celebrated on the corner of Trade & Tryon in 1996. Only a handful of people gather, but local civic groups keep the memory of the commemoration alive for the next decade. Due to Charlotte’s exponential growth, the destruction of much of the historic homes and buildings in downtown, and the arrival of many immigrants from other parts of the country, May 20th as a holiday and the history of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence gradually fade from popular memory. By 2000, the Mecklenburg Declaration is generally forgotten by the community; when discussed at all, it is widely (and falsely) believed to be a myth. Also in 2000, Congressman Mel Watt submitted the Mecklenburg Independence Day celebration into the Library of Congress “Local Legacies” program where it can be found on the LOC website.

All newspaper articles accredited to the Charlotte Observer.