CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No matter their background, students from Davidson College and Johnson C. Smith University are linked inside the classroom at the Smith Institute for Applied Research thanks to a new research course.

The course, "The Sociology of Beatties Ford Road," which "focused on pressing issues concerning the Historic West End/Northwest Corridor and JCSU community," according to the school press release.

Professors Joseph Ewoodzie, Tiffany Taylor and Ron Stodghill led the senior-level course, marking the first time students from Davidson College and Johnson C. Smith University has collaborated on the course.

"It's been life-changing," said JCSU senior Ebony Hill.

"I knew it would be exciting but not in this way, at all," said Davidson junior Grace Woodward.

Ebony and Grace were assigned to the same research group, joining two other students in studying slavery in Mecklenburg County and specifically, Latta Plantation.

Grace knew that some her descendants owned slaves, and after a trip to the plantation, Ebony recognized a lot of the names from her family.

After "a lot of digging" and trips to the Carolina room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Ebony and Grace made a shocking realization.

"It was totally unexpected," said Ebony. "I found out that there was a connection, as far as my ancestors being owned by her ancestors."

"I actually didn't believe them for a long time," said Ewoodzie.

Documents showed that Ebony's third great-grandfather was owned by Grace's fifth great-grandfather's nephew.

"I hope to take what I learned and give it to the next generation," said Hill, who added that it's really special to find such historical documentation considering the lack of paperwork that possessed slaves' names.

It sounds like a big coincidence, and it is to some degree according to Ewoodize, with some hard work mixed in.

"We got lucky," said the Davidson professor. "The luck is that there were two families who are really interested in genealogy."