In past years, there have been movements aiming to strip names of white supremacists and Confederate soldiers from street signs and other public spaces in the American South — including in towns in Orange County.
In May 2005, the Town of Chapel Hill renamed Airport Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The initial petition to rename the street intended to honor King and his work as a civil rights activist.
Recently, there has been a movement in Carrboro — which is named after white supremacist Julian Carr — to rename a street after Braxton Foushee, a longtime community servant and the current chair of the Town’s Planning Board. The Carrboro Town Council recently proclaimed Dec. 13 as Braxton Dunkin Foushee Day of Service.
Danita Mason-Hogans, a Chapel Hill civil rights historian and activist, is part of the initiative to rename a Carrboro street after Foushee. She said the Orange County Training School-Lincoln-Northside Alumni Association spearheaded the movement.
According to an email from Catherine Lazorko, the communication and engagement director for the Town of Carrboro, there are three circumstances under which a street name can be changed in Carrboro.
One circumstance is when property owners propose a new name, Lazorko said. In this case, 100 percent of the property owners on the street must agree to the change, Carrboro planning director Trish McGuire said.
Another circumstance is when the town council requests a change in a street name, Lazorko said. She said once the Town staff evaluates any conflicts or duplicates, the name change can move forward.
Michael Burton, the land records and geographic information system division manager for Orange County, said it is common for residents to not want a name change, especially since the property owners have to change their licenses, financial documents and any other records with their address on it.
“We do get a lot of opposition from residents,” Burton said. “A lot of people are very fond of their address and don't like change, and unfortunately we deal with that a lot, and we try to mitigate the circumstances as much as possible.”