James “Slack” Steele
Mr. James “Slack” Steele is the son of Owen and Maggie Steele. He was born and raised in Charlotte and lived in Blue Heaven before moving into the Brooklyn area. He is 76 years of age and retired from a career as a postal worker as well as working in insurance and real estate. Mr. Steele attended Myers Street Elementary School and as he puts it the “Great Second Ward High School.” Upon graduation from Second Ward, he attended Johnson C. Smith for two years and then went into the military. He and his wife Barbara have been happily married for 48 years. Mr. Steele spoke about the feeling of love and family in the community of Brooklyn and his experience at the “Great Second Ward High School.” Mr. Steele is able to recall many of the businesses and churches within Brooklyn. He talks of growing up in Blue Heaven and his strong feelings and opinions about what urban renewal means to him. Mr. Steele also passionately speaks of his feelings towards the politicians during the time of urban renewal as well as today.
Tape Log: Oral History Interview with James “Slack” Steele
Interviewed by Amy Hodgin
|Description of Interview Contents
|Beginning of Interview.
|Information on his early life, talks about Blue Heaven and the sense of family with in the community and discusses the businesses in Blue Heaven and even tells which street the businesses were located.
|Talks about which streets made up Blue Heaven and when his family moved into Brooklyn. Speaks of summer job at roofing company and of neighbors he grew to love like family.
|Safety within Brooklyn; never owned keys to homes when growing up. Talks about the love for each other, had everything they needed in Brooklyn, discusses more of the businesses, and the corner of 1st and Myers as the “center part of Brooklyn.” “ The Great Second Ward High School,” discusses his experiences and love for the school.
|Discusses sports teams at Second Ward, and his contribution to the basketball team. Talks about his coach Mr. Kenneth Diamond, Sr. Discusses more of the businesses in Brooklyn.
|Continuing telling about the businesses within Brooklyn. Begins to speak about churches within Brooklyn: “St. Paul Baptist, Friendship Baptist Church, Stonewall AME Zion Church, Brooklyn Presbyterian, House of Prayer.” Discusses House of Prayer convocation, the Sunday parade, and mentions Daddy Grace.
|Discusses more businesses in Brooklyn. States, “there were no rivalries in Brooklyn” and “no gangs.” Talks about hanging out with friends when he was young and remembers his friend Senator Jim Richardson.
|“The families raised in Brooklyn were the greatest ones God could have made.” Begins to talk about urban renewal and his personal feelings about the matter. He discusses his fondest memory, he and his wife’s wedding at St. Paul Baptist Church. He then talks about how there was no voice at all for the Brooklyn community in regards to urban renewal. Speaks of his mother in laws experience.
|Speaks of how the government was saying urban renewal was for the betterment of the city. Speaks of tearing down Second Ward and how the alumni were lied to by the city about the rebuilding of the school. Discusses the strength of Second Ward alumni. “Destroying Second Ward was one of the things they should have not done.”
|Continues discussing destroying Second Ward High School and talks about West Charlotte High School of today. Impressions of other communities in response to urban renewal, “maybe we could be next.” Discusses what politicians should learn from Brooklyn.
|Talks about Brooklyn area of charlotte today. Feels politicians still look at blacks as “second class.” Track 3
|Speaks of what politicians should learn today from urban renewal and the destruction of Second Ward.
|Mr. Steele concludes by speaking about his enjoyment of the interview and why he agreed to do the interview.