CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Charlotte civil rights activist and public servant Sarah Stevenson died Tuesday at the age of 97, city officials announced on Tuesday.
Stevenson is known for her memorable service on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and several community groups, including the Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum, the Sarah & Samuel Stevenson Scholarship Fund, which supports Johnson C. Smith University students, South African student scholarships, and supporting Growing the Dream Awards.
“I just love her,” said U.S. Congresswoman Alma Adams. “She was very warm, and she always greeted you with a smile. I mean, even I know when she probably didn’t feel good, she made you feel good. And I tell you, I just am so happy that I had an opportunity to meet her.”
Stevenson co-founded the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum in 1980 and set the civil tone for its discussion of divisive public issues in the Queen City. The group said it changed its name in 2022 to Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum in her honor.
In October 2017, 130 families were given an affordable place to live on Charlotte’s north side at the Stevenson Apartments at Brightwalk. The units, named after Stevenson, house a mixed-income community and provide safe and affordable housing.
The units are one of many positive developments in Charlotte Stevenson is connected to.
“I just have to think about how blessed we are as a community because she’s got her footprints, her handprints all over this community,” Adams continued. “There’s no place that you can go, no corner you can turn and not feel and see the works of Sarah Stevenson.”
On the Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum website, her bio reads in part, “Forced to leave high school without a diploma because the district reassigned a 12th-grade teacher, [Sarah Stevenson] moved to Charlotte; met her future husband Robert Louis Stevenson as they worked in old Charlotte Memorial Hospital’s housekeeping department; lived in Cherry; raised four sons; moved in 1970 to a street off Beatties Ford Road. Along the way, she did domestic work in a Myers Park home, taught at a daycare center, worked at the Charlotte Area Fund, and established the city’s mediation efforts now housed at the Community Relations Committee.”
Officials said in the ’70s, Stevenson’s efforts to get uniforms for her son’s school band led to her well-known role in merging the school district’s black and white PTAs before courts forced Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to desegregate.
Stevenson served on the CMS Board of Education from 1980-1988. Over the years, Stevenson helped lead and support civic and women’s groups, as well as several local businesses.