NOLA’s Jeff Davis Parkway renamed for Black educator Norman C. Francis

The unanimous vote to rename the parkway comes after protests against white supremacy and police brutality erupted across the country

Michelle Obama sits with Norman Francis, president of Xavier University as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to speak at Xavier University on August 29, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by A.J. Sisco-Pool/Getty Images)

New Orleans City Council voted on Thursday to rename Jeff Davis Parkway after Dr. Norman C. Francis, a prominent Black educator.

The unanimous vote to rename the parkway comes after protests against white supremacy and police brutality erupted in the U.S. following the unarmed police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. These demonstrations from Black Lives Matter groups and others came with calls to rename streets and parks attached to an oppressive history. 

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The mid-city roadway was formerly named after slave owner Jefferson Finis Davis. He served as the president of the Confederate states from 1861 to 1865.

The renaming of the parkway was first proposed amid nationwide protests in late May. This decision follows New Orleans’ 2017 removal of statues honoring three other Confederate leaders, reported The New Orleans Advocate.

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U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Norman Francis, president of Xavier University in New Orleans wait for U.S. President Barack Obama to begin his speech at the University on August 29, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by A.J. Sisco-Pool/Getty Images)

Xavier University, where Francis served as president from 1968 to 2015, is bordered by this roadway. Francis is an African-American educator whose vision transformed this school and the greater New Orleans community, reported The New Orleans Advocate.

The importance of this decision has garnered the attention of people outside New Orleans. Last month, current Democratic vice presidential nominee and California Sen. Kamala Harris wrote a letter to the New Orleans City Council supporting the renaming of the parkway, CNN reported.

“This is a unique opportunity for the leaders of New Orleans to rename the Jefferson Davis Parkway and celebrate a beloved local leader, Norman C. Francis while embracing progress for American society. The people of New Orleans deserve the opportunity to learn about this leader who is shaping their city for the better,” Harris wrote.

Councilwoman Helena Moreno tweeted Harris’ letter last week. Moreno thanked Harris for her support and informed the public she will be moving the ordinance forward.

Francis, 89, is alive today to see this vote pass. The street will officially be renamed in January 2021. The delay in legally renaming the street is to avoid census and voting complications, The New Orleans Advocate reported.

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“Dr. Francis’ name replaces a figure emblematic of the power that has sought to suppress African Americans. Now, this street will bear the name of a person who has worked to uplift and elevate Black people in New Orleans and also throughout our country, ” Councilwoman Moreno told The New Orleans Advocate.

This recent commission by New Orleans City Council sets a precedent for renaming other streets and landmarks that go against the city’s goals of promoting equitable social and economic welfare, reported The New Orleans Advocate.

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