'Inappropriate' Black History Month door decorations removed at Charlotte high school (2024)

A classroom door decorated to depict a “white” and “colored” entrance from the segregation era is causing some controversy.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Did a Black History Month activity at a local high school go too far?

Teachers at West Charlotte High School decorated their classroom doors and doors in the school halls with the theme of the February holiday that celebrates the accomplishments and history of Black Americans.

One door represented Motown, another had the message "From Chains to Change" with an image of two hands in chains.

But one classroom door depicting a “white” and “colored” entrance is causing some controversy. While some found some of these decorations to be offensive, others thought it was a great way to spark meaningful conversations about Black history.

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However, the district said once school leadership was made aware of the display, it was taken down.

The teacher’s daughter, Laquinta Caldwell, spoke to WCNC Charlotte. Caldwell said her mother’s vision was to represent segregation and the display is being taken out of context.

“Her only thing was making sure that the kids knew, or could see, a visual of how things were back in the day,” Caldwell said.

The decoration is re-creating a Sears store in the 1930s. Caldwell said some people are missing the message.

“The purpose of the door was to show that Sears, which is a department store, was one of the first stores that allowed Blacks to shop with white people,” Caldwell explained.

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Cheryse Terry is the owner of Archive CLT where people can get more than coffee. It is filled with Black memorabilia. Terry also looked at the different door decorations.

“What I see is somebody who has done a great job in re-creating and illustrating what the times have been for Black people,” Terry said.

The project is opening the door to powerful conversations about race — or is it?

“If it is out of context alone, then it may raise some questions or controversy,” Terry said. “But looking at it in its totality, I don’t think you can tell a Black story in America and not talk about segregation.”

Terry said she sees similarities between the images from the school and the ones of the Black historical figures that cover the walls of her café.

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“It’s a re-creation of the people who have impacted our time and tell our story,” Terry said as she looked at the images of the historic figures. “I’m proud of the work that these Black people have done to move the culture forward.”

Posts of the door decorations are making their rounds on Facebook with many saying it’s a unique way to teach history.

Comments include:

“When I first looked at it, I thought it was distasteful, and then I thought about the impact it could potentially make… greatidea.”

I’m cool as long as there is a good lesson with it.”

I love how bold, uncomfortable and educational this is!

West Charlotte High School Black History Month door decorations

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Jarrett Evans, the founder of Revision Counseling and Wellness, said context goes a long way when covering topics like these with students.

“It's not comfortable to have these conversations just flat out,” Evans said. “However, by understanding the context and the pretenses as to why these things occur, then we get a sense of a greater appreciation or awareness of these things.”

Although Evans did not find the display to be inappropriate for high school students along with the right instructions, he said it can lead to healthy discussions.

“In order for us to not repeat history, we must understand history, and how do we get there?” Evans said. “That (referring to the displays) may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but did it spark conversation, did it spark critical thinking skills, does it spark engagement?”

Meanwhile, CMS said the activity did not align with the district’s curriculum and approved lesson plans, so it was removed.

The District sent WCNC Charlotte the following statement:

“The school district is required to provide social studies and history lessons to all our students in an age-appropriate manner. Teachers at West Charlotte High School decorated doors that displayed inappropriate content. The activity is not aligned with state standards or with the CMS curriculum and approved lesson plans.

Once school leadership was made aware of the doors, the displays were immediately removed. This happened over the course of a few hours in one school day on February 14, 2024.

Moving forward, the district’s teachers will be retrained in the specific social studies curriculum practices that can be utilized in lesson plans to teach students.”

Despite this Caldwell said she was proud of her mom and her work and disappointed it was taken down.

“Overall, I think that her mission was accomplished I think that she was able to get through a lot of people whether it was negative or positive,” said Caldwell.

Contact Jesse Pierre atjpierrepet@wcnc.comor follow her onFacebook,XandInstagram.

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'Inappropriate' Black History Month door decorations removed at Charlotte high school (2024)
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