‘A direct affront.’ City streets may be renamed over Confederacy, white supremacy ties

Charlotte panel recommends renaming streets that honor Confederacy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Nine Charlotte streets named after people with ties to the Confederacy, white supremacy, segregation or slavery should be renamed, a panel commissioned by the city recommended Wednesday.

The Legacy Commission was formed in June by Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd and a nationwide reckoning with the history of racism in America.

The members of the commission, appointed by the mayor and city council, released a report detailing the draft recommendations alongside a survey sent out to the public Wednesday.

The 15-member group, comprised of local historians and other community members, has been meeting since August. They reviewed an initial list of over 70 streets names in Charlotte associated with slavery, Confederate veterans, white supremacy or “romanticized notions of the antebellum South.”

Charlotte advocacy groups like the NAACP have been pushing the city to rename or remove such markers for years.

City of Charlotte seeks public input on renaming streets

The commission will share an update with the city council Dec. 14 on the final recommendations, which will be informed by the public feedback. The city has final say on any name changes.

According to the report, the group agreed that the focus should be on streets named for Confederate leaders and officers, and individuals who fought against equality.

“The Legacy Commission believes that the continued memorialization of slave owners, Confederate leaders and white supremacists on street signs does not reflect the values that Charlotte upholds today and is a direct affront to descendants of the enslaved and oppressed African Americans who labored to build this city,” the group wrote.

The commission also reviewed Confederate monuments in Charlotte, but is not recommending moving or taking them down.

According to the report, the monuments in Elmwood Cemetery are the only ones in public spaces that the city has control of. The commission determined that the memorials are appropriate in a cemetery, but is suggesting adding interpretive panels to contextualize monuments and markers related to the Confederacy.

STREETS ON THE LIST

Here are the street names being recommended for changes. The public can submit feedback on the proposals here.

  • Stonewall Street: Named for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, this street runs through what was the Black neighborhood of Brooklyn, before it was destroyed during urban renewal in the 1960s and ’70s. It ends at Bank of America Stadium, once home to the first private hospital built exclusively for Black people in the state, and also the site of the first documented lynching in Mecklenburg County.
  • Jackson Avenue: Also named after Stonewall Jackson, this street is off of East 10th Street just outside of uptown.
  • Jefferson Davis Street: This street in the Druid Hills community is named after the former president of the Confederacy. He had no ties to Charlotte, the report found, but retreated to the city during the final days of the Civil War and held his final executive cabinet meeting here.
  • West Hill Street: Daniel H. Hill was a Confederate officer who was born in York County, S.C., and spent time in Charlotte, where he died in 1889. He also served on the faculty of Davidson College.
  • Phifer Avenue: William Phifer was one of the biggest slaveowners in Charlotte. His property served as the headquarters for a Confederate general who led the attack on Fort Sumter, and hosted the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet.
  • Aycock Lane: This street is likely named for Charles Aycock, who served as governor of North Carolina, and was the primary architect of the state’s white supremacy movement that emerged in 1898, and led to the disenfranchisement of Black North Carolinians.
  • Barringer Drive: Osmand Barringer of the prominent Barringer family has said this street was named after him. He was the leader of a local white supremacy club and fought the desegregation of Charlotte’s public facilities in the the 1950s. The street is in West Charlotte, snaking south from West Boulevard to Pressley Road.
  • Morrison Boulevard: Cameron A. Morrison, the former governor, was a white supremacist and a leader of the “Red Shirts,” a paramilitary group that terrorized and suppressed Black voters in the 1890s. The name of Morrison Library was recently changed to SouthPark Regional Library because of this history.
  • Zebulon Avenue: Zebulon Baird Vance served as Confederate governor, then later as the state’s governor, a congressman and U.S. Senator. The street is in the Smallwood neighborhood off of Rozzelles Ferry Road.

NEW NAMES TO CONSIDER

The report also suggests the city look at naming future streets after individuals who have contributed to Charlotte’s progress, including those who have been overlooked in the past, such as Black, Latinx, Native American and female Charlotteans.

A list published in the report of possible names includes civil rights activists and leaders such as Julius Chambers, Kelly Alexander Sr. and Dr. Reginald Hawkins.

It also recommends prominent female leaders such as Annie Alexander, the first woman to practice medicine in the South, and Elizabeth “Liz” Hair, the first woman elected to the Mecklenburg County Commission.

In particular, the report suggests Stonewall Street be named for Chambers, a renowned civil rights lawyer.

Local NAACP leader Corine Mack said that while renaming streets would be symbolic changes, she’s hopeful the momentum builds to allow for deeper discussions about systemic injustice in the city.

“I think this is a good thing.... but there is a real conversation that needs to be had,” she said. “The political history of this country is founded on Black people. For me, changing the names are symbolic but doesn’t do anything for the systemic racism we deal with every day.”

Mack recommends the streets be renamed after Black national leaders, especially “strong and courageous women like Fannie Lou Hamer.”

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