It would be impossible to fully teach a state's entire history during a student’s time in school -- I know that. Nonetheless, there have been many key events in our past that changed the course of the future, and to disregard that is to deny something that shaped who we are today.
Take the Mecklenburg County Declaration of Independence: An article published in the spring of 1819 in the Raleigh Register proclaimed that over a full year before the United States of America sent its Declaration of Independence to Great Britain, more than twenty citizens of Mecklenburg County got together and wrote of their own secession from England. It was stated that one of the leaders, Thomas Polk, read it on the stairs of the Charlotte Courthouse. Another one of the men, James Jack, rode up to Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress to deliver it to the North Carolina representatives, who decided it was too drastic for the time and didn’t tell the others. The original version of the document was apparently lost to a fire in the early 1800s and it was pieced together through the notes of one of the signers. Thomas Polk’s son even tracked down some of the original signers, and while details varied, they all agreed that the declaration was genuine.
In North Carolina, this was hailed to be indisputable, but when news of this reached John Adams, and through him, Thomas Jefferson, the skepticism grew. It turned out that there had been some passages in the “Meck Dec” that had been copied verbatim from the nation’s Declaration of Independence, which brought into question not only the authenticity of the former, but which document came first. One conclusion guaranteed that the Meck Dec wasn’t valid, and the other implied that Jefferson copied from a low-profile document that most didn’t know existed, and neither was ideal.
North Carolina’s 1975 license plate said “First in Freedom”, but in ‘82 was changed to “First in Flight” as time went on and more and more evidence proved the Meck Dec to be fake. All we know for sure now is that there was a document called the Mecklenburg Resolutions which talked about not accepting Great Britain’s laws, but it was far from a petition to leave the Mother Country entirely.
On a more serious note, another event not talked about in schools is the Greensboro Massacre of 1979.
Much more recent, it originally was meant to be a march against the Ku Klux Klan — the event was dubbed “Death to the Klan”— and a challenge printed in the newspaper by the organizers, the Communist Workers Party (CWP) told the KKK of the time and place of the march. The CWP was a multi-racial labor group, and the place they had chosen for the march was called Morningside Homes, a predominantly Black community. The Klan arrived armed nearly an hour earlier than the start time. Meant to commence at noon, a group of white supremacists (a mix of the KKK and neo-Nazis) drove multiple cars into the crowd and started shooting at the CWP at 11:23.
Local authorities allegedly assumed a small-scale event wouldn’t need much protection, so there had been only four police officers on scene. In the end, the police officers didn’t do much and they never received backup.
Five people were killed and another ten were injured. Only one person had a weapon and started firing back, and he was one of the five that died. Two days prior to the march, one of the officers who was also part of the KKK got a map of the route they planned to march with the intent of starting a violent altercation.
Video evidence gave undeniable proof to the event, but in two separate criminal court cases in 1980, all of the accused were acquitted by an all-white jury. Another case in 1984 also acquitted the culprits, but they managed to win a $48 million civil case in 1985. However, they were only awarded $400,000 of the original request and only seven of sixty-five perpetrators were even charged.
Though these are two vastly different stories, they are connected by our desperate need to see the past as a gilded age. The fact that there are still people that believe that there really was a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and there are people that have no idea that the Greensboro Massacre was a real event shows that rather than acknowledging our mistakes to move forward, we try instead to erase our history of wrongdoings. What we don't seem to realize is that ignoring our problems and teaching our children that we have done no wrong is more detrimental to progress than realizing them. Only learning from our mistakes will we prevent the repetition of those same mistakes in the future.
Our goal as a society is constantly to progress and make life better for all, and denying the truth only spells more disaster. Important events that shaped us should not be hidden away like a shameful secret — whether rightfully or not. Secrets are not things we can learn from. The same way running away from our problems makes them harder to solve, running away from our past can ruin our future.