Soul City, North Carolina

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Soul City, North Carolina
Sign along Highway 158 marking the entrance to Soul City
Sign along Highway 158 marking the entrance to Soul City
Map of North Carolina
Map of North Carolina
Soul City
Coordinates: 36°24′31″N 78°16′13″W / 36.40861°N 78.27028°W / 36.40861; -78.27028Coordinates: 36°24′31″N 78°16′13″W / 36.40861°N 78.27028°W / 36.40861; -78.27028
Country United States
State North Carolina
CountyWarren County
ZIP code
Advertisement for Soul City, ca. 1970.

Soul City is a community in North Carolina, United States of America. It was a planned community first proposed in 1969 by Floyd McKissick,[1] a civil rights leader and director of the Congress of Racial Equality. Funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Soul City was one of thirteen model city projects under the Urban Growth and New Community Development Act. It was located on 5,000 acres (20 km2) in Warren County near Manson-Axtell Road and Soul City Boulevard in Norlina, North Carolina.[2]

Goals and plans[edit]

According to McKissick, "Soul City was an idea before the movement. Soul City actually started after World War II, in my mind. And it was first talked about when we saw the use of the Marshall Plan, and all like that. See, I've always been in real estate and I've always been a businessman."[3][4]

Soul City was intended to be a new town built from the ground up and open to all races, but placed emphasis on providing opportunities for minorities and the poor.[1][5] It was also designed to be a means of reversing out-migration of minorities and the poor to urban areas; the opportunities Soul City provided, such as jobs, education, housing, training, and other social services would help lessen the migration.[6]

The city was planned to contain three villages housing 18,000 people by 1989. Soul City was projected to have 24,000 jobs and 44,000 inhabitants by 2004.[6] It was intended to include industry and retail development for jobs, as well as residential housing and services. The plan was for residents to work, get schooling, shop, receive health care, and worship in town. Soul City was the first new town to be organized by African-American businesses. McKissick envisioned Soul City as a community where all races could live in harmony.[7]

Federal funding and political opposition[edit]

In 1972, the city received a grant of $14 million from HUD based on plans of attracting industry as well as developing residential housing. That same year, Jesse Helms, a conservative, was elected to Congress. Helms saw Soul City as a misappropriation of federal funds.

In 1975 Soul City came under attack by two North Carolinians in Congress, Republican Senator Jesse Helms and Democrat Representative L.H. Fountain, who successfully pushed for an audit of Soul City, which Helms framed as an insult to the taxpayers.[8]

Rise and decline[edit]

By 1974, pioneering families moved to Soul City and steady progress was apparent in the laying of water and sewer lines, construction of roads, a day care center, a health care center, and early construction of "Soul Tech I" (with 52,000 square feet of industrial space).[9]

The city failed to reach its initial ambitions. Lawsuits and investigations into the use of funds by the Soul City Company, the city's developers, resulted in foreclosure in 1979 despite eventually being cleared by a Government Accountability Office audit.[10] In 1980, 35 housing units, a clinic, a tennis court, and a pool had been developed. About 150 people were employed in the city.

Since that time, the city has grown somewhat, but not to the size originally planned. The former Soultech 1 building was purchased by the adjoining Warren County Correctional Institution for expansion. A number of new homes have been constructed.

Notable people[edit]

Representative Eva Clayton lived in and worked for Soul City Company before being appointed to a state position in community development, and later being elected to the United States Congress. The town lies within the 1st congressional district of North Carolina.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "North Carolina History Project : Soul City". Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  2. ^ Healy, Thomas. Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia. Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 9781627798624.
  3. ^ "Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South." Interview by Jack Bass and Walter DeVries. Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 6 Dec. 1973. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.
  4. ^ "Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South". Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  5. ^ Schultz, Will. "Soul City." North Carolina History Project :. North Carolina History, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.
  6. ^ a b McKissick, Floyd B. Soul City North Carolina. Soul City, NC, 1974. Print.
  7. ^ Bey, Lee. "Story of cities #41: Soul City's failed bid to build a black-run suburbia for America". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  8. ^ Carolyn M. Brown: Soul City
  9. ^ Christopher Strain. 2004. "Soul City, North Carolina: Black Power, Utopia, and the African American Dream." Journal of African American History 89, no. 1 (Winter 2004), pages 57–74.
  10. ^ "Information on the New Community of Soul City, North Carolina". 1975-12-18. Retrieved 2015-11-10.

External resources[edit]

  • Floyd B. McKissick. Soul City North Carolina, 1974 on Hathi Trust (14 pages).
  • Amanda Shapiro. "Welcome to the Soul City." Oxford American, A Magazine of the South 80 (Spring 2013). online version from April 4, 2016.
  • Soul City - A dream. Will it come true? Dan Hull, The Chronicle, Duke University, March 1, 1974