'Our history has been untold': Oberlin Village nonprofit reacts to Cameron Village name change

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Saturday, January 30, 2021
Oberlin Village nonprofit reacts to Cameron Village name change
The neighboring community to the soon-to-be renamed Cameron Village -- Oberlin Village -- is home to one of the first few sites where African-Americans could be laid to rest in Raleigh.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Historic Oberlin Village Cemetery is continually being spruced up after decades of neglect. It's a massive undertaking for the nonprofit Friends of Oberlin.

Volunteers are not only trying to preserve the site but also educate others on the contributions of those who settled in this area.

The land was originally founded by freed slaves post-Reconstruction. Now, a corporate entity is taking notice and action.

Regency Centers is renaming "Cameron Village" to "Village District" and dropping its connection to the Cameron family, which was among the state's largest slaveholders.

One of Raleigh's oldest shopping centers is changing its name to be more inclusive.

"We are so excited that this change has been made. For so long our history has been untold, hidden, or just ignored," said Cheryl Williams, the co-chair of Friends of Oberlin Education. "We shouldn't be honoring the names that represent such negativity, such ideas of exclusion and disrespect to a large portion of the community."

The change is personal for volunteer Williams; her ancestors were enslaved by the family.

After doing research, Williams says her third great-grandfather was sold by the Umstead family to the Camerons.

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"All these people have to walk up and down the street, and be reminded of the bondage and the enslavement that they were a part of or forced into," said Williams.

The experience should be easier days in the ahead, as work at the historic cemetery carries on. It was one of the first few places African-Americans could be laid to rest in Raleigh.

Volunteers are still unearthing burial markers, some of which are just fieldstones.

Efforts are getting a financial boost with Regency Centers committing $50,000 to help honor area founders.

"(We are) proud this work is being recognized," said Williams. "Raleigh as the city of North Carolina as a state gets on the top ten of all sort of lists for work, education, housing, medical, and we (African-Americans) helped with that. We built a lot of that and created that."