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Engage 2020: Look Back, Move Forward

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Engage 2020: Look Back, Move Forward

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, N.C.

Advocacy & Awareness | 2020

Innovation Synopsis

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has partnered with Digital Public Library of America to create virtual programming and exhibits around women’s suffrage, contemporary voting rights, the increasing participation of Black women and women of color in leadership and activism and the emergence of contemporary social movements like Black Lives Matter.


Our challenge was to elevate the names of Black women who played a significant role in the United States suffrage movement and beyond whose stories are not well known. Working with DPLA afforded us the opportunity to capture, digitize and chronicle how universal suffrage did not come with the 19th Amendment but was a continued struggle through the 1960s and continues today. Our goal has been to create tools for further learning as well as opportunities to engage with historical information and contemporary figures.

Key Elements of Innovation

Engage 2020 began with virtual conversations with historians, artists and activists ranging from the National African American History Museum to a local artist/activist who collaborated on the Black Lives Matter mural in Charlotte. The website features profiles of local women of note as well as interviews with residents sharing their experiences of the COVID-19 crisis. Events continue in partnership with three local universities holding panels of local women and activists in leadership encouraging young adults to vote.

Achieved Outcomes

The unintended consequences of COVID-19 caused a pivot from in-person forums to completely virtual programming.

  • 10 programs (June-Sept) reached 5,000+ viewers.
  • Partnerships with Queens University, UNC-Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University expanded the reach of initiative.
  • Enhanced relationships with locally elected women officials.
  • Robust web presence with historic and contemporary narratives and content.
  • Coverage by media outlets, partnership with WFAE public radio.
  • Positive and encouraging community feedback.