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Q and A with Charles Jonas III

by Mark Peres

May 3,2004

Tell us about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

On May 19th, 1775, in Charlottetowne, at the county courthouse at the intersection of what is now Trade and Tryon Streets, news of the massacres at Concord and Lexington reached a local band of patriots. Already incensed by what they considered oppressive and unjust laws by King George III, this group of local leaders met late into the night and on May 20th, drafted the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, known as “MecDec.” This document, treasonous to Britain, stated that the actions of the crown were intolerable and that Charlottetown and its county, Mecklenburg, were declaring independence from the King. The document was presented to a rider, Captain James Jack, who departed north to present MecDec to the Continental Congress. It is important to note that May 20, 1775 is on the North Carolina flag.

How has Charlotte celebrated MecDec Day in the past?

For nearly two centuries, MecDec Day in Charlotte was one of the largest and most important historical events in the nation, drawing Presidents Taft, Wilson and Eisenhower, First Ladies and governors for a 4 day celebration that included parades, picnics, fireworks and firing of guns. In 1975, more than 110,000 people gathered in Freedom Park to celebrate MecDec Day as President Ford presided over festivities. Unfortunately, after the Bicentennial, the celebrated subsided.

What are the plans for MecDec Day going forward?

We formed The May 20th Society this year to revive the celebration. Taking the best traditions of the past into the 21st Century, we will create a pinnacle event around which the entire region can rally. We will celebrate the visionary spirit that has existed here since the 1700’s. This May 20th at noon, on the corner of Trade and Tryon, we will read a copy of the Declaration and have a fife and drum procession to Settlers Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of Thomas Polk, a signer of the Declaration. That evening, the Society will gather at Ri Ra’s Irish Pub to kick off a landmark annual event to embrace our history and help define our future.

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