Charlotte stepped closer to shedding a burdening history as City Council voted unanimously to change nine street names with ties to the former Confederacy, white supremacists, slavery and racial segregation.
The action had been proposed by a Legacy Commission formed by Mayor Vi Lyles following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Council on Monday voted unanimously to accept the commission’s recommendations.
Council member Tariq Bokhari, one of two Republicans on the City Council, said the city should refrain from naming anything after people going forward, since no one knows how future generations will perceive those people.
Council member Larken Egleston noted the potential costs and inconvenience of renaming streets, especially for residents and business owners affected by address changes. He said the city will work with those affected.
“We don’t want this to be a burden for you,” Egleston said.
In December, the 15-member commission, made up of local historians and community members, released its report, which recommended that the following streets be renamed:
Jefferson Davis Street: Named after former president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, this street is in the Druid Hill community in west Charlotte. Davis doesn’t have extensive ties to Charlotte, the commission’s report found.
West Hill Street: Confederate officer Daniel H. Hill spent time before and after the Civil War in Charlotte. West Hill Street in uptown Charlotte near Bank of America Stadium is named in his honor.
Stonewall Street and Jackson Avenue: Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson is honored by these street names. Stonewall Street runs through uptown Charlotte and ends at Bank of America Stadium. Jackson Avenue is off East 10th Street right outside of uptown.
Phifer Avenue: William Phifer, who was originally from Catawba and relocated to Charlotte in 1852, owned approximately 28 enslaved African Americans. Phifer Avenue connects North Tryon Street to North College Street between East Ninth and East 11th streets.
Aycock Lane: Named in honor of Charles Aycock, who served as the state’s 50th governor in the early 1900s. Aycock is remembered as the primary architect of the state’s white supremacy movement, which was responsible for disenfranchising Black people. The street is in a subdivision just south of Dilworth, off Scaleybark Road.
Barringer Drive: Osmand Barringer was a leader in the local white supremacy club movement in Charlotte at the turn of the 20th century. He said this street was named in his honor. The white supremacist also fought against the desegregation of public facilities in Charlotte in the 1950s. His brother, Paul, was known for studying “scientific” or biological racism at the University of Virginia in the late 1800s. This street is in west Charlotte and extends south from West Boulevard, snaking across Remount Road and Clanton Road before coming to an end at Pressley Road.
Morrison Boulevard and Governor Morrison Street: Former Governor Cameron Morrison was a prominent leader of the “Red Shirts,” the paramilitary wing of the state Democratic Party’s white supremacy campaign that worked to suppress and terrorize Black voters in North Carolina in the late 1890s. Under his leadership, the government systematically made use of Black convict labor to help build state roads. Morrison Boulevard and Governor Morrison Street are named in his honor. Morrison Library was recently changed to SouthPark Regional Library because of his past.
Zebulon Avenue: Zebulon Baird Vance was North Carolina’s Confederate governor from 1862 through 1865. Zebulon Avenue is in the Smallwood community off Rozzelles Ferry Road. Vance High School recently got renamed in honor of civil rights attorney Julius Chambers.
New names for consideration
Chambers, civil rights activist and former NAACP Chair Kelly Alexander Sr. and civil rights and integration activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins all were named in the commission’s report as possible people they think the city should name streets after in the future. The commission suggested these figures because they contributed to Charlotte’s progress and represent the diversity of the city’s history. Other names the board highlighted included:
- Ishmael Titus: A former slave who fought with the colonies during the American Revolution.
- Harry Golden: A Jewish-American humorist and Charlotte resident who was the writer and publisher of the Carolina Israelite and author of many popular best-seller books including “Only in America.”
- Count Vincent de Rivafinoli: An Italian Aristocrat that came to the village of Charlotte in the 1830s to upgrade and operate budding gold mines in the region.
- King Hagler: He befriended the first white settler in Mecklenburg County, Thomas Spratt, and worked to achieve peace with Native Americans in the mid-1700s.
- Annie Alexander: The first female to practice medicine in the South, and she served as president of the Mecklenburg County Medical Society.
- Elizabeth “Libby” Randolph: She played a key role in starting Kindergarten in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and she became associate superintendent during the implementation of busing.
- Elizabeth “Liz” Hair: the first woman elected to the Mecklenburg County Commission.
- Gladys Tillett: A former U.S. delegate to the United Nations and leader of the Suffrage movement in the 1920s.
To begin implementing the recommendations, the commission will develop a pilot program that outlines a process for changing street names going forward. Additionally, the city will support neighborhood efforts to petition possible street name changes and install a memorial commemorating the deaths of Joe McNeely and Willie McDaniel, who were the victims of the two documented lynchings in Charlotte.
To fund the renaming of the streets and the memorial, the city will apply for a grant from the Mellon Foundation. The grant is a part of the foundation’s Monuments Project, a five-year, $250 million commitment to change how the country sees monuments and memorials so that public spaces better reflect the nation’s diversity.