Aviwe DuBois Data News Weekly Contributor
On the corner of Drexel Drive and what is currently Jefferson Davis Parkway lies Xavier University of Louisiana’s Campus. On Aug. 20, 2020, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway to Norman C. Francis Parkway. This will be the first New Orleans street named after a slave-owning president of the Confederacy that will be renamed for an African American educator whose vision transformed this Historically Black University.
“I am most grateful that the city of New Orleans has named a street in my honor, particularly one that borders Xavier University, an institution that I have called home for more than a half-century,” said Norman C. Francis, Xavier’s former President and President Emeritus.
“And I am extremely appreciative of everyone who supported this effort, most importantly, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the City Council, and those who wrote letters, editorials, and signed petitions in support,” Francis said in a statement.
Initially proposed in January 2018, the renaming was supported by the Xavier community and the Board of Trustees, university officials said. However, after the killing of George Floyd on May 25th, by Minneapolis police officers, the nationwide protests sparked a renewed interest in removing symbols honoring Confederates, slaveholders, and White supremacists.
“Changing the name of Jeff Davis Parkway is significant because it erases a racist past tied to the Civil War and the legacy of slavery,” said Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir, a Civil Rights-Era Historian, and Chair of the Department of History at Xavier. “This means the world to activists who are fighting to reverse the prominence of the myth of the lost Confederacy that glorifies the Southern cause and seeks to preserve its racist legacy.”
The decision to rename the street that borders Xavier’s campus will ensure that future students feel welcomed, university officials said.
“Dr. Francis always knew that education is the pathway to social justice,” said Reynold Verret, Xavier’s current President. “His unwavering commitment and courage in the face of adversity spanned 50-plus years at Xavier and taught us all many lessons on how we must serve and lead our community.”
The actual renaming of the street will occur on Jan. 1, 2021, to avoid complications with the ongoing Census or problems that may arise if voters in the upcoming elections have addresses that don’t match their IDs. The renaming will be the first change in the city since the removal of statues honoring three Confederate leaders and a White supremacist militia in 2017. A commission created by the city council is considering whether to rename other streets, parks, and places in the city in the future.
“St. Katharine Drexel and the Sister of the Blessed Sacrament trusted me to serve Xavier and make it an integral part of this community,” Francis said. “I share this acknowledgment with them and my Xavier colleagues. I am truly honored and humbled by this recognition.”
“I am most grateful that the City of New Orleans has named a street in my honor, particularly one that borders Xavier University, an institution that I have called home for more than a half-century,” said Norman C. Francis, Xavier’s former President and President Emeritus.
On Aug. 20, 2020, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway to Norman C. Francis Parkway.