Charlotte, city (1990 pop. 395,934), seat of Mecklenburg co., S N.C.; inc. 1768. The largest city in the state and the commercial and industrial leader of the Piedmont region, Charlotte is the third-ranking U.S. banking center as well as an air, transportation, and distribution hub for the Carolina manufacturing belt. Hydroelectricity from the Catawba River powers industries producing textiles, chemicals, clothing, machinery, food, metals, and printed materials.
The Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte, Queens College, and Johnson C. Smith Univ. are in the city. The Mint Museum of Art is a reproduction of the U.S. Mint located in Charlotte from 1837 until 1913; there are also modern art and African-American museums and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The city is home to the National Football League's Carolina Panthers. High-rise office buildings and other construction projects have transformed the city's skyline since the 1980s. Lowe's (formerly Charlotte) Motor Speedway is in nearby Concord.
The city (settled c.1750) was named for Queen Charlotte, wife of George III of England. Its citizens were among the most outspoken in opposition to the British government, and it was at Charlotte that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed in May, 1775. In his brief occupation of the city (Sept.–Oct., 1780), British General Cornwallis called it a "hornet's nest of rebellion." In 1971, Charlotte and Mecklenburg co. became the scene of the first major court-ordered busing program (ended 1999) to eliminate school segregation.