Fifty out of 50: That’s where the Charlotte area ranked in Harvard economist Raj Chetty’s influential 2014 study of economic mobility. By now, that headline finding is well-known. It’s spawned task forces and soul-searching in Charlotte for half a decade, as leaders seek a way to change the city’s dynamic and increase upward mobility. So, it’s hard to move from the bottom to the top. But what about other, less dramatic moves that can still vastly improve a person’s circumstances - say, from the lowest one-fifth of the ladder to the middle fifth?
You probably have never heard of John Lawson. Scott Huler aims to change that. Lawson was an Englishman and explorer who, over two months in late 1700 and early 1701, traveled almost 600 miles through the Carolinas, including through what’s now Charlotte. His book, A New Voyage to Carolina, recorded the terrain, plants and people he found. It was, as Huler writes, one of the most important early books to emerge from the colonial South.