Fannie Flono and I both arrived in Charlotte in 1984. She came to pursue a career as a journalist with The Charlotte Observer, and I came to pursue a career as an English professor at UNC Charlotte. In 1993, she became an associate editor, a position she held until her retirement from the paper in 2014. In this capacity, she regularly wrote columns, many of which focused on the African American community in Charlotte. I always read her columns, and I appreciated how she often included historical information and insights in these op-ed pieces. Now that I occasionally write guest columns for the paper, I make an effort to follow Fannie’s example and ground my columns in history.
Fannie’s interest in African American history led her to write Thriving in the Shadows: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, which the Novello Festival Press published in 2006. For anyone who is interested in the history of Brooklyn and Charlotte’s other Black neighborhoods, Fannie’s book is indispensable. It includes more than 100 archival photographs, and it features excerpts from oral history interviews that Fannie conducted with prominent members of Charlotte’s Black community. Fannie’s book along with Tom Hanchett’s Sorting Out the New South City provide readers with an understanding and appreciation of the story of African Americans in Charlotte.
Since her retirement in 2014, Fannie has remained interested in the history of Black communities in the Charlotte area. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Museum of History (CMH), and she is leading CMH’s campaign to preserve an abandoned schoolhouse where Black children studied during the Jim Crow era. Mary Newsom, a free-lance writer who worked with Fannie for more than 20 years at The Charlotte Observer, serves with Fannie on the CMH Board of Trustees. Mary sent me the following statement about Fannie’s efforts to save this historic schoolhouse:
You couldn’t find a more fitting person than Fannie Flono to spearhead the Charlotte Museum of History’s campaign to rescue an abandoned, century-old rural schoolhouse built during Jim Crow segregation. Fannie has been a trustee at the museum for more than a decade, with a special passion for telling the stories of the past, especially the Black community stories that mainstream history has slighted. One example among many is the Siloam Schoolhouse, built as part of a vast but almost-forgotten initiative called Rosenwald Schools. More than a century ago, Julius Rosenwald, CEO of Sears and son of Jewish immigrants, partnered with Black educator Booker T. Washington to build schools for the descendants of formerly enslaved laborers in the South. North Carolina had more Rosenwald Schools than any other state, and Mecklenburg had 24. Siloam is one, a dilapidated relic of a now-forgotten community in rural northeast Mecklenburg, an area now called University City. The museum intends to raise $1 million to move the school to the museum and restore it to tell the story of community resilience and persistence. Thanks to Fannie’s efforts, with help from many others, the Save Siloam School campaign is more than a third of the way to its goal.
As a journalist with The Charlotte Observer, as the author of Thriving in the Shadows, and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Museum of History, Fannie Flono has contributed in numerous ways to our understanding of the history of African Americans in Storied Charlotte. I think that an excellent way to celebrate Black History Month in Charlotte would be to bring back into print Fannie’s Thriving in the Shadows: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.