Charlotte has grown in every census since the eve of the Civil War, usually by at least a third. From 2000 to 2010, the city added more than 190,000 people, its population increasing by 35 percent. Some of this was a result of liberal annexation laws that allowed the city to expand. The city's minorities also became the majority, as the white population dropped to 45 percent, according to the U.S. Census.
Race relations have also been critical to the city's growth. Business leaders encouraged people not to fight court-ordered integration. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Charlotte schools and forced busing, the city accepted the change without violent protests.
The city elected Harvey Gantt, the man who integrated Clemson University in South Carolina, as its mayor in the 1980s. But in meetings with business leaders, he would often be the only black person in the room; he later lost two bids to unseat then-U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Even today, many of the movers and shakers at the banks are white.
David Taylor, who is CEO of the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, thinks Charlotte's current mayor and its second black leader, Anthony Foxx, will do more for Charlotte's minorities."The city has made sure that an African-American can make it to the table. Now I think we could use more diversity at that table. And I think we're getting there," Taylor said. Religion also holds a special place in Charlotte. Convention goers landing at the airport will first get on the Billy Graham Parkway to get to the convention hall. But religion doesn't dominate the city like it does in a lot of Southern towns with a strong Baptist presence. "Charlotte is a little different from most other Southern cities because it has a strong Presbyterian base," Goldfield said.