Charlotte mayor (from 1957-1961) James Saxon Smith formed the Mayor’s Friendly Relationship Committee in response to sit-ins at lunch counters led by Johnson C. Smith students in uptown Charlotte on February 12, 1960. The mayor’s goal for this committee was to facilitate conversations between lunch counter protesters, who wanted to integrate Charlotte's restaurants, and local business owners so they could come to a resolution on their own. Smith appointed Dr. John R. Cunningham to chair the committee, who was the director of the Presbyterian Foundation and had previously served as the president of Davidson College from 1941-1957. By July 1960, the MFRC had helped the lunch counter owners and student protesters come to an agreement, resulting in the integration of many of Charlotte’s lunch counters.
At the urging of Dr. Cunningham and other civic and religious leaders, the work of the committee continued and expanded to explore issues of housing, education, equal opportunities for work, crime, and the impact of segregation on communities. Stan Brookshire was elected mayor of Charlotte in 1961, and the committee was then restructured and renamed the Mayor’s Community Relations Committee (MCRC). The committee included black and white men and women, and was comprised of 27 notable Charlotte area residents including newspaper editors, politicians, ministers, physicians, teachers, and businessmen. The work of the MFRC and MCRC led to the establishment of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations agency, which aims to promote quality of opportunity for all of Charlotte’s citizens.
This collection mostly comprises correspondence, including letters to and from MCRC committee chair John R. Cunningham, and the correspondence of mayor James Saxon Smith relating to the establishment of the committees. Some correspondence contains racist sentiments in opposition to the committee and to integration as a whole. The collection also contains committee minutes, memorandums, pamphlets, and research materials on the subject of race relationships that were used by the committee in developing their awareness of the issue. The content of this collection provides insight regarding the city’s changing attitudes towards segregation, integration, and race relations, and the impact these changes had on the community.