Some Carrboro residents want the town to change its name

Tuesday, September 4, 2018
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The Town of Carrboro is named in honor of Julian Shakespeare Carr.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- This Orange County town is perhaps like every other town in the Triangle - growing - but its strong reputation as a progressive community may be at odds with the town's heritage.

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The Town of Carrboro is named in honor of Julian Shakespeare Carr. a man famous for his business in textile mills, and infamous for his role in the Jim Crow era.

"You do not want to be associated with a person who has a questionable racial identity," Deb Aikat, a Carrboro resident of 23 years, told ABC11. "You know I fear that at some point, some group of people will try to publicize Carrboro as a bad place because of the bad associations with the name."

At the heart of Carr's divisive legacy is a speech he gave at the dedication of Silent Sam, the same monument to Confederate soldiers that was just toppled at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Aikat, a professor at UNC, noted that Carr was a philanthropist, but he also labeled him a "white supremacist."

"The character of this place is vibrant, very progressive, and people are very welcoming," he said of today's Carrboro. "When we think about the name, though, it gives us pause."

Indeed, the town's website touts its progressive reputation, including the fact that "Carrboro was the first municipality in North Carolina to elect an openly gay mayor in 1995, and was also the first in the state to grant domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples."

Aikat's proposal is by no means a movement; he independently wrote to members of the town's Board of Alderman. His argument, though, echoes several that came before him, including a failed petition in 2016.

In emails provided to ABC11, Aikat's exchange with town leaders show an understanding and validation of the idea of a name change, but aldermen are worried about the logistics of such a move, including the money it would cost for a complete re-brand.

Still, leaders say they are moving on a proposal to post a "Truth Plaque" on Town Hall.

"The plaque will acknowledge that we are named after the racist who spoke at the unveiling of the Confederate statue and the racist history of the town as well as celebrate our local civil rights heroes and affirm our commitment to continuing to work for social justice," Alderman Jacquelyn M. Gist writes. "I expect that the plaque will be unveiled early next year."

Town officials did not respond to calls and emails from ABC11.

In a statement to ABC11, a spokesman for the NC Sons of Confederate Veterans says "Frankly, I'm not sure any issue involving modern-day Carrboro is worth our time or worry. However, we generally oppose the practice of renaming places and objects, especially those named after our Confederate ancestors."