Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Stonewall Jackson or Martin Luther King?

Go to almost any city in America, and if you want to find the neighborhood that was urban renewed out of existence, look for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Bingo.
So you guessed it! The Charlotte street some people want to rename MLK Drive runs smack through what used to be the historic black neighborhood called Brooklyn. It was mostly urban renewed out of existence. It was further plundered when I-277 was built along one side.
Now that part of downtown is a rather desolate sector of government buildings, parking lots and an underused (except by Canada geese) park.
Here’s another funny thing. A bunch of Southern traditionalist types are pouting because they say the street, named Stonewall, honors a Confederate War hero. However, there’s no evidence that it does or doesn’t. More on that below.
One more funny thing. A big chunk of Stonewall Street years back (my guess is 1950s) was renamed Independence Boulevard. Wonder if the same folks kicked up a fuss then. When I moved here in 1978, Independence ran along Stonewall Street. It came past CPCC, as now, past Charlottetown Mall, and then shot up toward the Observer building, but at some point (I can’t quite remember where) it curved left, then right again and went down what’s now called Carson Boulevard. Somewhere around there Independence magically changed names – this IS Charlotte, after all – into Wilkinson Boulevard. The coming of I-277 rerouted that section of then-Independence and the city restored its older name: Stonewall.
Back to Stonewall. Dan Morrill, local historian, says it’s his “reasoned judgment” the street wasn’t named for Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, whose widow, Anna Morrison Jackson, was from Charlotte and lived here for years. “The street name is old,” Morrill says. “I looked at two maps, one dating from 1890-something and the other 1877.” Both maps showed it named Stonewall Street, he says.
What makes him think it wasn’t named for Stonewall Jackson is that, as he says, “I would have thought that in all of my meanderings about Charlotte that I would have heard that that was what it was named for. ... I read every edition of the Charlotte Observer from 1890 to 1925, and I never saw any reference to that.” He also thinks that if it had been named for Stonewall Jackson, it wouldn’t have been called just Stonewall Street, but would have been Thomas Jackson Street or something.
“I’ve got a feeling, “ he says, “that if somebody wants to go down there [the Carolina Room at the main library] and spend a week cranking microfilm, they might find something.”
Tom Hanchett, historian for the Levine Museum of the New South, who’s done a lot of research into old Charlotte neighborhoods, also isn’t sure. “It’s a strange street to pick for that name,” he says. He also mentions: “It’s a sucky street to name after King. Can’t we do better than that?”


Anonymous said...

The ONLY reason they would pick Stonewall is to piss people off and create division for political gain.

A much wiser(non-political) choice would be a street like Central Ave., which has little symbolism at the time, but you could make it so by renaming it MLK.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with both the blogger ahead of me and historian Tom Blanchett. Out of ALL of the streets in Charlotte, why these two? I believe the rationale has been that by selecting these two short streets, there would be less of a financial impact.

However, it seems as though most other cities that have MLK streets have often renamed streets that serve as main thoroughfares throughout the cities. Stonewall is hardly a main thoroughfare and why even bother with Independence.

Yes, it could end up being more expensive on all sides of the coin to change the name of a longer street. But renaming a street would have much more of symbolic impact. Especially with Central, which is a main culturally diverse thoroughfare. It would be so much more representative of what MLK stood for.

Anonymous said...

Why have they passed on renaming West Blvd to ML King Blvd? It cross Billy Graham Pkwy and can be seen by thousands of cars everyday.

Anonymous said...

honestly, why do we need to rename yet another charlotte street? i'm sure that the street would not hold that name for longer than a few blocks for few to notice other than those who give directions and have to remind us 'yeah, it changes, again!'

i say we just name a freeway or part of a freeway after him. freeways have the most drivers and have the most of pretty much everything off of them. Independence Expressway = MLK Expressway. If you sign it such and put many signs up that remind you 'now entering MLK Expressway' 'MLK Expressway [arrow left/right/straight] along the expressway and keep the name Independence Blvd for the name further down, it would be just fine. the two names pretty much go together, independence and MLK - duh!

Anonymous said...

Why name a street after a man whose main claim to fame was that he became a "martyr" to the civil rights cause? I have often marveled that Charlotte has had the guts to not rename a street after King, no sense in changing that now.

Anonymous said...

Why after 37 years has anyone now thought to name a street after MLK?
Could our city councilmen not find some other issue that is glaring in the black community to latch on too like 85 murders and unemployment?
Or do they not have the political will to do the right thing?

Anonymous said...

"Why name a street after a man whose main claim to fame was that he became a "martyr" to the civil rights cause?"

I'm not sure if you're trying to say that's a pathetic claim to fame or what? There's a lot of hype, but MLK Jr. was a pretty big deal. What would be a more impressive claim to fame, in your opinion, than sacrificially -- even to the extent of your life -- standing up for the rights of a group of people? Or maybe I just misunderstood your meaning.

Anonymous said...

Who says we need to have a street named after MLK or even want to have a street named after him? Who's to say the street is named after Stonewall? I don't have any idea and don't really care. Stonewall was an upright and honorable man contrary to revisionist historians. If the street is named after him great! If it wasn't who cares? It will probably be renamed after MLK but not for the reasons that are being claimed. It is merely an attempt to pacify the politically correct crowd in an attempt to be a "world class city". Quit worrying what other people and towns think, lets be unique and not follow the inmates who run this aslyum!

Jason said...

Here's an idea ... the section of Independence from 277 to Eastway has VERY FEW businesses. How about calling it the MLK Freeway?

Or, even better ... I've seen cities ADD MLK's name as a second name for major roads. For example, West Blvd. would ALSO be known as MLK Blvd. BOTH names on street signs. Don't tell me that would be too confusing for drivers. Clearly, the planners who created the maze of streets we have now didn't care much about drivers.

Anonymous said...

Consider that they named Highway 74 (Independence Blvd) The Andrew Jackson Highway as it goes to the Mountains, Cherokee Indian country. Jackson is the president who sent the Cherokee packing to Oklahoma, the infamous "Trail of Tears". Seems like adding insult to injury.

Anonymous said...

Wow, didn't realize that. Harsh.

Anonymous said...

Do many people really belive that renaming a part of a street of highway after MLK will add any impact? Any significance?

Will people suddenly say "Wow, Charlotte sure shows it cares about black people."

Will blacks/african americans feel good about it and say thank you to Charlotte?

Will anyone really notice?

Before we go re-naming another street "in honor" of MLK, go take a walk down some of other cities MLK blvds.
New Orleans (before Kartina) was a diaster - too dangerous to walk due to all the drug and gang activity.
Cleveland and Detroit's MLK blvds are a mess. Trash everywhere, crime in the streets, drugs, prostitutes. Most people in those towns AVOID Martin luther King blvd unless they have to use it.

How does that honor MLK's legacy?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with the previous post more.

Anonymous said...

Instead of nameing a street why don't we do something beneficial for the community that MLK cared about. How about a community/education center that would help train or retrain people to better themselves. This would be much more in keeping with what MLK wanted.

Anonymous said...

No need to think a racist white person is writing this,but as a black person living in Charlotte I fell off of my chair laughing when I heard of Councilman Mitchell ideal.
He is such a joke of a councilman people are dying in his district,people are unemployed in his district and he wants to name a street 37 years after the death of MLK.
Mitchell you can fool some of the people some of the time,but not this person.

Bryan said...

“In a sense we have come to our Nation's Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked insufficient funds.”
Maybe instead of infighting about street names, heritage and respect we should be inviting people to the “Table of Brotherhood” to help our neighbors out of the “valley of despair” and work towards “transforming (Charlotte) into an oasis of freedom and justice”.

Personally I don’t care what street you name after King, Name them all after him. Just don’t miss the point, don’t buy the lie and don’t settle for the status quo. It’s about creating a better place to live for all people white, black, Hispanic…. It’s about providing better education, it’s about creating good jobs and a safe community and it’s about loving your brother. Because maybe with “faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood”

Lets not let the message get lost by the cause.

Anonymous said...

My vote would be for 7th Street, which runs right through uptown and also is the home of the Afro American Cultural Center. Surely 7th Street is named after some obscure Col. 7th of the Confederate Army!

Anonymous said...

why not find the major street with the highest crime rate and rename it MLK Blvd since the crime rate will go up with the name change.

I guess if Charlotte wants to be a world class city we need to copy every city and have a MLK Blvd. what about a Main Street

Anonymous said...

"Surely 7th Street is named after some obscure Col. 7th of the Confederate Army!"

hahaha. Why yes, actually, it was.

Andy said...

Martin Luther King fought against racism. Stonewall Jackson was a leader of the Confederacy which sought to maintain the slavery of blacks. So the argument comes down to: Who is more worthy of recognition? A man who fought to end racism? Or a man who fought to continue slavery?

If I supported the practice of naming streets after political leaders, I'd support the guy who fought to end racism.


Anonymous said...

to poster that said Jackson fought to "continue slavery" just proves how much our education system is corrupted and has failed us.

Anonymous said...

Dude, if you're fighting despite the fact that if you win, people will continue to be enslaved, you're not standing up for what's right.

Anonymous said...

the civil war had zilch to do with slavery, its what the union covered it up with. keep in mind, NYC had the second highest population of slaves in the country.

Anonymous said...

So they say no one can confirm whether or not Stonewall was named after Jackson or not. Perhaps we could keep the name to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village back in '73. I wonder what the Confederate wannabes would think of that?

Anonymous said...

the civil war was about money as are most wars, specifically an 80% tax rate imposed on agricultural south by industrial north, they got screwed. slavery was simply a propoganda piece to cover that up used 2 years later, the emancipation proclomation was pure propoganda and had zero real effect. It DID NOT include the North, only the South which the union had no control over. it was pure propoganda and slaves remained in the north at that time.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the councilman is being at best naive aside (I don't recall ever finding myself on MLK Blvd in any city and thinking, "Wow! They have an MLK Blvd!), I don't know to what degree we honor people by naming things after them. And I'm pretty sure that when thousands of things are named after the same person, there's not much impact at all.

But if that's wants the city wants to do, why not? But why not also avoid creating another multi named street at the same time?

It does seem, though, as if there might be higher priorities that street names of any sort. Yes I know: it's only a couple of thousand dollars. I can't help but wonder what Charlotte might be like if the city government would actually prioritize in such a fshion that they actually had attended to every necessity before they even considered spending on something else.

Anonymous said...

485. move on.

sexy said...