This year marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, now a federal holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States.
Celebrations go as far back as 1866 and originated in African American churches. The holiday became more acknowledged during the 20th century and received official recognition in 47 states, including North Carolina.
Today, Juneteenth represents more than freedom; it is a celebration of African American arts, culture, and community. Nowhere in Charlotte is this sense of community more prevalent than in Grier Heights. In the 1890s, a former enslaved Black man, Sam Billings, became the first African American man to purchase land in Charlotte. Alongside others, Billings purchased more land, and Grier Heights slowly grew into a thriving community.
In 1927, local landowners pursued the need for a school. Through community fundraising, funding from Rosenwald Fund and the School Board Committee, and a land donation from Sam Billings, the Billingsville School was built. The school was developed for African American students in grades one-nine until Randolph Junior High School was built in the 1960s. The Billingsville School is now home to the Grier Heights Community Center.
During the 1940s, Mr. Grier built 100 homes in Grier Heights, which were sold to African American soldiers when they returned from World War II.
DreamKey Partners is collaborating with CrossRoads Corporation to build new homes in the Grier Heights community, while preserving the deep history and culture of the neighborhood.
“We’re proud to work alongside DreamKey Partners to honor the rich history of this community and the descendants of the families who first called Grier Heights home,” said Tiffany Capers, Executive Director, CrossRoads Corporation for Affordable Housing and Community Development, Inc.. “We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive and reach their fullest potential and our work in the Grier Heights neighborhood is part of that commitment.”