HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — People trying to buy a historic African American school in Huntersville have now filed a lawsuit accusing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission of racial discrimination.
In the lawsuit, Tyson and Regina Bates accuse the commission of letting historic African American properties fall into disrepair and of holding them to higher standards compared to potential white buyers.
The old Torrence-Lytle school house on Holbrooks Road in Huntersville has lost the long battle against time. The windows are boarded up and trees are growing through it.
But, Tyson and Regina Bates said, they see it for what it could be.
“You have to be the one, little by little you want to make change, you want to provoke change. Everyone is here with a purpose and we all have to do our jobs,” Regina said.
Their change started in 2016 when they offered to buy the historic African American schoolhouse from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
The two planned on fixing it up and turning it back into a school.
“Every time we met their goals, they always added something else. There were multiple letters of intent, things we’d already submitted they wanted over and over again,” Regina said.
She said, for seven years they went back and forth. According to the lawsuit, there were two times where they got under contract but the commission backed out without explanation.
“They’re not the first to ask what is going on with the Black properties and the African American history around the county of Mecklenburg,” said their lawyer, Faith Fox with the Cochran Firm.
In the lawsuit, Fox and the Bates are accusing the commission of holding them to different standards compared to other potential buyers who were white.
“Being told you can have the property for nearly $500,000 when it’s being sold to a white person for $246,000,” Fox said.
Officials with Mecklenburg County said they can’t comment on legal matters.
“We know too much is given, much is required. We know we may have to overcome,” Tyson said.
As for the Bates, their goal is still the same as it was seven years ago — to take what’s been forgotten and turn it into something worth remembering.