Biddleville: Home to Johnson C. Smith University, Oldest Black Neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina

0 Posted by - February 5, 2021 - Black First, LATEST POSTS

Biddleville is the oldest surviving black neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was started as a village next to Biddle College, known as Johnson C. Smith University today. The college, which opened formally in 1867, was founded by two young white Presbyterian ministers. The school operated as Biddle Institute in the beginning to train black preachers and teachers.

The idea of a college for “preachers and teachers” was looked upon by some as quite a radical notion. Many individuals, including Booker T. Washington years later, felt that blacks should first be trained in farming and manual labor. However, Miller and Alexander and some of their fellow Presbyterians were adamant about the need for an educated black leadership.

The college was first named in honor of Major Henry Johnston Biddle, a white Union soldier killed in action in the Civil War. The first president of the institution was Rev. Stephen Mattoon. Like the founders, he was a white Presbyterian minister. In 1871, he and his wife Mary purchased from W. F. Davidson fifty-five acres of farmland across Beatties Ford Road from the college, just south of the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford railroad track (now Seaboard Coast Line Railroad).

In 1891 a black “teacher and preacher,” Rev. Daniel J. Sanders, was named the president of the University, and subsequent presidents and most faculty  members have been black. In 1923, in the midst of this major expansion, the college was renamed Johnson C. Smith University.

In 1908, the Biddle University Quintet was formed to tour and raise funds in emulation of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. In 1920 they recorded four spiritual sides for Pathé Records. In 1938 they replaced the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet as regular performers on the Charlotte WBT radio station.



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