Charlottesville Moves to Rename Parks

May 16, 2017

Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy gave City Council an update on the progress of installing new signage in Lee and Jackson parks, as well as nine other recommendations put forward by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces.
Credit Jordy Yager

Charlottesville City Council on Monday moved a step closer to renaming two downtown parks currently named for Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson.  WMRA's Jordy Yager reports.

The renaming was recommended by a Blue Ribbon Commission that led to Council’s vote earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee. That move has been halted for at least 6 months by a lawsuit, and has caused a great deal of controversy, including a recent white nationalist gathering.

In the intervening months councilors are moving forward with several other attempts to more fully and accurately recognize African-Americans. On Monday they began discussions about the language to include on new, more historically accurate, signs to be installed in the parks as soon as possible.

Councilors also discussed a memorial to victims of lynching in the area, including John Henry James, an African-American accused in 1898 of assaulting a white woman. Just west of Charlottesville, near the current entrance to the Farmington Country Club, a crowd of white men dragged James from a train, hanged him from a tree and repeatedly shot him, according to news accounts.

Mayor Mike Signer implored the public to come forward with other instances of lynching.

MAYOR MIKE SIGNER: And I would invite the community, anybody who’s still watching, to let us know any other names you might have from the history of this area at all.

The vote to rename the parks is expected at the next City Council meeting, Monday, June 5th.