After months of surveying community members and stakeholders, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted unanimously to rename Barringer Academic Center in honor of Charles H. Parker, a man born into slavery who went on to become a community activist. 

Why it matters: Superintendent Earnest Winston said during a meeting in June that he wanted to review all school names within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to eliminate the community’s “racist, hateful and painful past.” 

Barringer Academic Center, named for a family steeped in white supremacy, will be the second school in CMS to shed the city’s racist connections and background. The board voted in October to rename Vance High School after civil rights attorney Julius L. Chambers. 

[CMS approves renaming Vance High School in honor of Julius Chambers]

The renaming will take effect at the start of the 2021-22 school year. 

Ridding the Barringer name

Parker, who died in 1939 at the age of 95, helped establish a community along West Boulevard. He founded Moore’s Sanctuary A.M.E. Zion Church and the now-closed Plato Price High School. His children would go on to help build affordable housing — including Parker Heights Apartment — on Parker’s 19th-century homestead. Parker Dr. also is named in his honor. 

“We are proud to rename this school for Mr. Parker, who was born into slavery and who went on to build schools, establish churches and provide affordable housing in the African-American community,” Elyse Dashew, board chair, said in a statement. “His legacy in public education in Charlotte, as well as his visionary civic activism, will serve as an inspiration to students and the school and our district as a whole.”

Parker, who was 93 when he died, received 616 votes out of the 1,084 votes CMS received regarding the name change. The other two names under consideration were Samuel Banks Pride, a former community activist, and Charlies Sifford, the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour.

J. Michael Moore, a historian, told QCity Metro last October that the Barringer academy originally was named after Rufus Barringer, a Confederate general out of Cabarrus County, and his sons, Paul and Osmond. 

[CMS to rename Barringer Academic Center]

Moore described the sons as “unapologetic and active White supremacists.”

Meanwhile, Moore said, Rufus Barringer was a much more complicated man who had a long record of support for the rights of Black Americans.

The school’s website credits Osmond Barringer as its namesake. 

‘Scars into stars’

At the beginning of the meeting, Parker’s great-great-granddaughters spoke about him and what he meant not only to the West Boulevard community but to Charlotte’s Black community as a whole. 

“Charles Parker was an anchor of education for Black children for 50 years,” Geri Lewis said. “I applaud my great-great-grandfather, because he turned his scars into stars.”

Kathy Middleton, another Parker descendant, said Parker left the slave system with nothing but rags on his back and went on to practice the principles of giving by forming a school, founding a church and doing many things for people in the Charlotte community.

“My great-great-grandfather’s impact is tremendous,” she said. 

Renetta Holloway, also a descendant, said her great-great-grandfather demonstrated a passion for education, community and helping others.

“His legacy is consistent with the school’s mission, and we think it’ll be something to lift the students’ pride,” she said.

Jonathan is a former QCity Metro reporter who covered Charlotte neighborhoods north of uptown. He also reported on education, public safety and health.

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