Former Carrboro mayor James Porto is requesting the town consider a name change, arguing that “Carrboro” does not represent the town’s values.
Carrboro is named after Julian Shakespeare Carr, a North Carolina industrialist who expanded his local textile mill and extended electricity to the town. The Carr Mill Mall is the site of Carr’s old Alberta Cotton Mill, which the town was built around.
Despite his work in the community, Carr was a Confederate veteran and an open white supremacist. At the inauguration of the Silent Sam monument on the UNC campus in 1913, he proudly recalled whipping an African American woman in front of the monument.
Porto said he does not believe the Carrboro community should be associated with a history of institutionalized racism.
“That’s obviously not someone we’d want to be honoring today,” Porto said. “I think the name of our town should represent the town we’ve come to be and would like to be, rather than a history that we’ve left behind.”
Porto said he is proposing a change from Carrboro to Paris to pay homage to the town’s nickname as the “Paris of the Piedmont.”
The nickname was generated by former UNC student Nyle Frank in 1970. Frank picked the name up from a sarcastic comment made by a Chapel Hill Weekly reporter, John Martin.
Porto said the name Paris would better represent Carrboro’s commitment to the arts, health culture and social justice.
“Carrboro really has become a very open, vibrant community with a very interesting, eclectic scene,” Porto said. “Everyone’s going to say it costs too much, there’s too much paperwork involved, but I think this type of change is worth it and I’m willing to pursue it.”
Porto said he plans to make a presentation before the board regarding the change by the end of May.
Board of Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said the board would not decide on a name change unless there is great community support. She said although she understands the historic implications behind the name, the Carrboro that existed during the years of Carr is not the Carrboro that exists today.
“The Carrboro that we all know of today stands behind acceptance, social justice and equality,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “The question I would raise is this: Would we be willing to rebrand ourselves and do we have to?”
Sophomore Celia Jackson said she does not believe people are associating Carrboro with Julian Carr and his supremacist values.
“I feel like it’d be more of a hassle to change the name than what it’s worth,” Jackson said.
“It’s different than just renaming a building; it’s an entire town. I think it’d be an identity issue. People know the name Carrboro, and they associate it with the town, not the person behind the name.”