A Charlotte civil rights pioneer was presented with a portrait


CHARLOTTE, NC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A South Carolina artist inspired by the life of Charlotte civil rights pioneer Dorothy Counts-Scoggins presented her with a portrait of her on Thursday.

Joey Whitinarts heard the story of Count Scoggins while watching a documentary about James Baldwin. He said it inspired him to paint the picture.

“The experience I had at Harding changed my life,” said Counts-Scoggins of the Irvine Elementary School library.

This made her an activist. And then the icon.

In 1957, at the age of just 15, Counts-Scoggins became the first and, at the time, only black student accepted into Harry Harding High School. The watershed moment came nearly three years after the Supreme Court ruled public school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

It became one of the most iconic photos from her first day at school, with children and adults spitting, kicking and insulting her in hopes of dissuading her from attending.

But this only strengthened the Scoggins Counts.

“Because it made me realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, which is to be an advocate and a voice for those who don’t have a voice,” Counts-Scoggins said.

It’s been 65 years since the Charlotte schools merged — and Counts-Scoggins still gives interviews and recalls the four days she was enrolled at Harding — before her parents pulled her out of the school because of bullying.

After talking with the Counts-Scoggins, Withinarts got her permission to start painting.

“The photo I chose really stood out because it was so strong and bold,” he said. “The way she carried herself correctly, her posture, everything was everything for me. I mean, it was so perfect, the way she was walking through those lines of kids, her demeanor was…she wasn’t attacking anyone, she was focused, she was there to learn and nurture, and that shot is all of that showed”.

Much of his work focuses on black characters such as film, music and activism legends. He has painted several paintings of legends such as Prince, Little Richard, Isaac Hayes, Chadwick Boseman and Muhammad Ali among many others.

“At 80, I’m still fighting for change. “I’ve always said that it’s important to me to change the education system in this country.. not just in Charlotte, but in this country,” Kants-Scoggins said.

A Charlotte civil rights pioneer was presented with a portrait

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