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Grier Heights Oral History Collection

Identifier: OH-GR

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of oral history interviews with members of the Grier Heights community, bringing awareness to the issues and successes of neighborhood members.


  • Creation: 2018 - 2019

Conditions Governing Access

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Historical Note

Grier Heights’ identity as a Black community runs all the way back to the 1890s, when Sam Billings, a formerly enslaved man, bought 100 acres of land in the area — the first recorded time an African-American bought land in Charlotte.

Grier Heights originated as a farming community of four houses in 1886. The community, originally called Grier Town, was a suburb that was home to lower-income and middle-class Black families, some of whom were teachers, masons, or worked for the U.S. Postal Service. By the 1920s, Grier Heights was home to several of Charlotte’s prominent Black residents, including Arthur Samuel Grier, a funeral-home director for whom the community is named, and James McVay, founder of Grier Heights’ Antioch Baptist Church. In 1907, Sam Billings, John Jackson, Arthur S. Grier, Lee Father MacDuff Dinkins, and James McVay purchased additional land. The neighborhood grew slowly until the 1940s, when prominent African-American businessman Arthur S. Grier built 100 homes that were sold to Black soldiers returning from World War II.

In 1927, landowners pursued the need for a school, however the Board of Education offered only a frame structure. Instead, the community, supervised by Nellie B. Dykes raised $505.00. The School Board Committee granted another $500 and the Rosenwald Fund provided funds as well. Sam Billings sold two acres and donated an additional acre for the school. The school came to be known as Billingsville School, which offered grades 1 thru 9 until Randolph Junior High School was built in the 1960s. Today, Billingsville School has been renovated into the Grier Heights Community Center. A low cost medical clinic, adult literacy tutoring and GED classes are offered at the center.

Like many other inner-city neighborhoods, Grier Heights faces gentrification, houses being converted to rental property, and other issues that are all-too-familiar to many communities in the Charlotte area. The neighborhood, bordered by Randolph, Wendover, Monroe, and Briar Creek Roads is adjacent to several highly sought after and extremely affluent neighborhoods. Residents, however, have continued the community’s tradition of resilience by working with local non-profits such as CrossRoads Corp., Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the Grier Heights Community Improvement Organization Board Retreat, hosted by the City of Charlotte in 2014.


5 Interviews

Language of Materials



Grier Heights was formed by newly freed African Americans as a settlement outside Charlotte's city limits in the late 1800s. Starting in the 1930s the community was further developed by businessman and community leader Arthur S. Grier. Today, Grier Heights is experiencing significant change as part of the expanding urban core of Charlotte. This collection consists of interviews with members of the Grier Heights community, bringing awareness to the issues and successes of neighborhood members.

Grier Heights Oral History Collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Oral Histories, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

About this Site

Finding aids are guides to archival collections, including manuscripts, university records, and oral history collections. These guides help you find physical collections which can be viewed in the Dalton Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library. A small number of finding aids link to digital content online. Please contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment:

Special Collections and University Archives
J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
(704) 687-1170
Schedule an Appointment