City of Charlotte Celebrates 242 Years of Visionary History

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Free events on May 19 and 20 honor the 242nd anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and Mecklenburg Resolves.

Celebrations of the MeckDec will take place on Friday, May 19, at the corner of Trade and Tryon streets in uptown Charlotte and on Saturday, May 20, at The Charlotte Museum of History.

“MeckDec personifies the spirit of Mecklenburg County to this day."

This weekend, Charlotte will celebrate the 242nd anniversary of what many historians say was America’s original declaration of independence – the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence or MeckDec, as it’s known locally.

The May 20th Society and The Charlotte Museum of History will host free events to celebrate Charlotte’s visionary history and the role of its people in pioneering the American ideal of liberty.

“MeckDec personifies the spirit of Mecklenburg County to this day. We were the first community to say we were ‘free and independent’ and lead the country by our example. It’s the original Charlotte story, and everyone here should know and celebrate it,” said Scott Syfert, author of the book “The First American Declaration of Independence? The Disputed History of the Mecklenburg Declaration of May 20, 1775.

“Mecklenburgers valued the English tradition of liberty and the right to self-government that had been established by colonial assemblies for many years,” said Kay Peninger, president and CEO of The Charlotte Museum of History. “When Great Britain began to ignore these rights and liberties, the colonists knew they could lose them forever if they allowed a new precedent to take root. Although many were happy and prosperous as British subjects, this was a line they were not willing to cross.”

Events on May 19 and May 20

The following events mark the 242nd anniversary of May 20, 1775, the date of the signing of the MeckDec. They are organized by The Charlotte Museum of History and The May 20th Society, with support from the Arts & Science Council and Charlotte Center City Partners.

Friday, May 19 at noon at Independence Square, corner of Trade and Tryon streets:

The May 20th Society’s annual commemoration of MeckDec signing will include

  •     remarks by Mayor Jennifer Roberts;
  •     military and Colonial re-enactors;
  •     historical readings;
  •     revolutionary segwalloons; and
  •     cannon firing

Past MeckDec celebrations have included former presidents (Taft, Wilson, Eisenhower and Ford), military generals, a first lady and countless dignitaries.

Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at The Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Dr.:

The Charlotte Museum of History will host a free Family Fun Day to celebrate the MeckDec and Resolves and the spirit of liberty they embodied. The event is free and open to the public. The celebration includes

  •     a presentation by Museum president and CEO, Kay Peninger, titled “Securing the Blessings of Liberty”;
  •     drum circles by Drums4Life, poetry by Queen Isis and a live art performance by T’afo Feimster;
  •     kids’ crafts, such as making a MeckDec book and creating animals of the Backcountry; and
  •     a visit by costumed interpreters dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Polk, known as the founder of Charlotte.

About the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

The history of the MeckDec began soon after news of the battles of Lexington and Concord arrived in Charlotte Town (present-day Charlotte). The following day, on May 20, 1775, prominent civic leaders adopted The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (MeckDec) – possibly the first declaration of independence in America.
The MeckDec itself is steeped in mystery and controversy. There are no records of its publication before 1819, and many historians doubt it ever existed. But it is memorialized on North Carolina’s state flag and its state seal, where the date May 20, 1775, appears.

There is no doubt about the existence of the MeckDec’s companion document, the Mecklenburg Resolves. A committee of local militia members adopted these “resolves,” or resolutions, and signed them on May 31, 1775. They were published in their entirety less than a month later in The South Carolina Gazette. They declared all royal authority suspended and laid out a plan for how Mecklenburg County would govern itself.

About The May 20th Society

The Society promotes Charlotte’s rich history of being the first American colony to declare independence from Great Britain. On May 20, 1775, more than two dozen colonial civic leaders from Mecklenburg County approved and unanimously adopted the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. In honor of this historic occasion, The May 20th Society hosts several ceremonial events including live re-enactments, a speaker series featuring renowned historians, and annual noon commemoration in Uptown. For more information, visit http://www.May20thSociety.org.

About The Charlotte Museum of History

The Charlotte Museum of History engages a broad public audience in the history of the Charlotte region through the stories of its people, places and events in order to promote dialogue and historical perspective. The Museum is the steward of the Hezekiah Alexander House (ca. 1774) and home site, a National Register of Historic Places site and the oldest existing home in Mecklenburg Country. Hezekiah Alexander was a leader in the years that led to the American Revolution and served on the committee that drafted North Carolina’s 1776 constitution and bill of rights. Historic Charlotte and The Charlotte Museum of History joined forces in January 2016, with a shared mission of preserving Charlotte’s history. For more information, visit charlottemuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@CLThistory).

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Kay Peninger
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