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North Carolina Renames Prisons Whose Names Honored Enslavers

by Matthew Clarke

On September 30, 2021, over 156 years after the end of the Civil War, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced the renaming of four prisons and a drug addiction treatment facility whose previous names honored racists, enslavers, and chattel slavery.

The Morrison Correctional Institution in Hoffman was originally named after Cameron Morrison, who served as North Carolina’s governor from 1921 to 1925. Near the end of the 19th century, he was the leader of the “Red Shirts,” whose members supported white supremacy and intimidated Black voters. It will now be known as Richmond Correctional Facility.

The DART Cherry residential treatment facility in Goldsboro was named after Gregg Cherry, who served as governor from 1945 to 1949 and “advocated to drop civil rights from the Democratic party platform,” according to DPS. It is now known simply as the DART Center.

The Polk Correctional Institution in Butner honored Revolutionary War officer William Polk, a slave-owner. It is now known as the Grantville Correctional Institution.

The Caledonia Correctional Institution’s name referenced an antebellum slave-holding plantation located on the prison’s property in Tillery. It is now known as the Roanoke River Correctional Institution.

The name of the Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women referenced an Asheville tunnel whose construction cost the lives of numerous Black prisoners who toiled on it involuntarily in the late 1800s.

“These changes are being made to better reflect the diversity of modern-day society,” according to Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. “In this day and age, it is unacceptable to maintain facility names with negative historical connotations.”

The name changes resulted from a review of the names of the almost 1,900 buildings administered by the DPS. Workers at the five renamed facilities, many of them Black, contributed to the renaming effort.

“I strongly believe that they should not have to work in facilities named to honor those who may have oppressed their ancestors,” said Ishee.

However, Ishee was silent about the prisoners caged in these facilities who are currently being oppressed. The United States seems to be unique among nations in that the side that lost the civil war got monuments, memorials and buildings named after its leaders, who in any other country would have been hanged for treason. Typically, only the winners of civil wars enjoy the spoils of victory. 


Source: Norfolk Virginian-Pilot

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