Thursday, August 19, 2010

Soul City, USA

As soon as I learned about Soul City in the late 1970s and could drive, I wanted to see it firsthand. It's a sort of secular utopia that never bloomed into the 50,000-person city originally planned for, but more like Koinonia Farm, Georgia, than Jonestown, Guyana. The idea was for a self-sustaining community undergirded by black-owned businesses that promoted racial harmony, a "brand new shining city" in Manson, North Carolina, USA. Soul City's location is near the Virginia border, not far off the main interstate highways (I-85 and I-95). Definitely worth a look and consideration; after my first glimpse, I go back from time to time to see if anything's changed much.

Soul City was civil rights leader (and lawyer-judge-entrepreneur) Floyd B. McKissick's (1922-1991) baby, though others shared in its birth and have kept the dream going in a more modest form. That is, like the Heidelberg Project in Detroit and despite claims to the contrary, Soul City still exists.

In 1974, James Brown captured the spirit in which Soul City was conceived: 

We got to get together and buy some land
Raise our food just like the man
Save our money, do like the mob
Put up your fight, and own the job
We got to get over before we go under

-- from "Funky President (People It's Bad)"

For more, please see:

McKissick's Three-fifths of a Man (1969).

Floyd B. McKissick Papers #4930, Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the African American Resources Collection of North Carolina Central University.

Christopher Strain, "Soul City, North Carolina: Black Power, utopia, and the African American dream," The Journal of African American History 89.1 (2004): 57+. Gale U.S. History in Context. Web. 19 Aug. 2010.

Today's Rune: Partnership.


Charles Gramlich said...

This is a piece of history I've largely missed.

Sidney said...

I'm going to pass this on to my wife. She has a particular interest in Utopian communities.

jodi said...

Erik, I find that engineered life kinda creepy. I prefer the natural evolution and the lessons it teaches..