Legacy Commission seeks community feedback for street renaming process
Ken Brown
kebrown@ci.charlotte.nc.us
12/2/2020
Revisiting Charlotte’s Legacy

Charlotte's Legacy Commission is asking residents to share feedback as the city considers renaming city streets that honor slavery, slave owners, Confederate veterans, supporters of white supremacy or romanticized notions of the antebellum South. The city is also considering a new process for approving new monuments and street names honoring historical figures.

The public engagement period follows the release of the Legacy Commission’s recommendations report provided to Charlotte City Council in November.

Residents can complete the form at the bottom of this page to provide feedback or submit comments by email. Public feedback must be submitted by Dec. 13, 2020.

In June, Mayor Vi Lyles called together 15 Charlotte historians, journalists and public servants to form the Legacy Commission. Mayor Lyles tasked the commission with compiling a list of street names, monuments and other markers in Charlotte that honor Confederate soldiers, slave owners and segregationists. The mayor also charged the commission with making recommendations on which streets should be renamed, and a process for approving new commemorative monuments and street names.

The Legacy Commission will share its final recommendations with Charlotte City Council in December following the public feedback period.

Before providing feedback, residents are encouraged to read Legacy Commission's report for details on its rationale for renaming specific Charlotte street names.

Why is this important?

Monuments or street names that commemorate historical figures or ideals are meant to reflect the values that are important to the community. After extensive evaluation, the commission has determined that several Charlotte street names honor individuals whose actions conflict with the city's values of being a diverse and inclusive community. 

It is important that the city acknowledges its past, including controversial figures, within the proper historical context. But, when celebrating figures in public spaces, those individuals should be widely embraced as people who have had a significant and positive impact in Charlotte.

What did the commission discover?

The commission discovered there are no Confederate monuments in public spaces owned by the City of Charlotte, except for those located in Elmwood Cemetery. The commission agrees that cemeteries are appropriate locations for Confederate monuments and recommends installing markers at these locations to provide historical context.

Dr. Willie Griffin, Legacy Commission consultant and historian with the Levine Museum of the New South, presented a list of several streets in Charlotte named in honor of slavery, slave owners, Confederate veterans, supporters of white supremacy or romanticized notions of the antebellum South.

What does the commission recommend for those streets?

The commission recommends prioritizing the renaming of streets that honor Confederate leaders and officers, and figures who actively fought against equality. This would include any vocal advocates of post-Civil War white supremacist groups; political candidates or figures who campaigned on a platform supporting white supremacy; and elected officials who supported and implemented Jim Crow laws.

Following these criteria, the commission recommends the immediate renaming of the following streets:

Jefferson Davis Street: During the Civil War, Jefferson Davis served as president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. By the 1880s, former Confederates saw him as a hero of the "Lost Cause" of the Confederacy. Jefferson had no extensive ties to Charlotte beyond retreating to the city during the last days of the Civil War and holding his final executive cabinet meeting at William Phifer's home. There is a Jefferson Davis Street located in the Druid Hill community in west Charlotte.

West Hill Street: Daniel H. Hill was a Confederate officer who spent time before and after the Civil War in Charlotte. West Hill Street is named in his honor. The street is in uptown Charlotte and extends east from McNinch Street to Eldridge Street, just outside Bank of America Stadium.

Stonewall Street and Jackson Avenue: Military historians regard Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson as the most gifted tactical commander in the Confederacy. His military exploits became legendary and were an essential element of the ideology of the "lost cause." There are multiple streets named in honor of Stonewall Jackson. The most prominent is East Stonewall Street, located in uptown Charlotte. There is also a Stonewall Jackson Homes Drive located at 5751 Airport Drive off West Boulevard. According to a 1947 Charlotte News article, Jackson Avenue, located off East 10th Street directly across from Piedmont Open IB Middle School, is also named in honor of Stonewall Jackson.

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: Aycock Lane is most likely named in honor of Charles Aycock, who, beginning in 1900, served as the state's 50th governor. Aycock is remembered as the primary architect of the state's white supremacy movement, which was responsible for disfranchising African Americans. The street is in a subdivision just south of Dilworth, off Scaleybark Road.

Barringer Drive: Brothers Paul B. Barringer and Osmand M. Barringer actively worked to advance ideals rooted in white supremacy. Paul became a leader in the field of "scientific" racism at the University of Virginia in the late 1800s, and Osmand was a leader in the local white supremacy club movement in Charlotte at the turn of the 20th century. Osmand also fought against the desegregation of public facilities in Charlotte in the 1950s. According to Osmand, Barringer Drive was named in his honor. The street is in west Charlotte. It 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: Cameron A. 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. In 1920, Morrison successfully ran for governor of North Carolina on the platform that he fought gloriously for the cause of white supremacy. Morrison served as the state's 55th governor and is commonly referred to as the "Good Roads Governor." 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.

Zebulon Avenue: Zebulon Baird Vance was North Carolina's Confederate governor from 1862 through 1865. His reelection as governor in 1877 symbolized the return to power of slavery-era leaders. Zebulon Avenue is in the Smallwood community off Rozzelles Ferry Road.

The commission has requested additional historical analysis and resident feedback before renaming other streets.

What would these streets be named?

Streets are often named for geographic locations, ideals or historical figures. The commission recommends using the following measures for street names and new monuments:

  • The monument or street name must recognize a figure who has had an important and positive impact on the city, state or nation. Priority will be given to figures who have had a significant connection to Charlotte and contributed to the city's progress.

  • The monument or street name must honor an individual who represents the diversity of the city's history.

  • No monument or street name should honor a living person. An individual must have been deceased for at least five years before being considered.

The commission also recommends that the city create a standard for weighing a historical figure's societal impact; consider loosening its street-naming policies to allow for streets to carry both first and last names of historically significant figures; and require public engagement and historical analysis as a part of the process for naming any new streets or honoring a historical figure with a monument.

What's next?

The commission will share an update with the Charlotte City Council at the Dec. 14 business meeting. Community feedback will be used to guide the commission's recommendations related to street name changes and monuments.

Residents can provide feedback in the form below.