The public library system in Charlotte, North Carolina, is renaming one of its branches that was named after a former state governor with ties to a white supremacy group.
Library officials conducted an audit of its 20 branches last year to identify items on display that represented racism and injustice. The results of that audit found 10 items that needed to be removed from public display along with the name change of one of the branches — The Morrison Regional Library.
“Systemic racism and inequity have no place in public libraries other than as recorded history to remind us how we got to this moment in time,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library CEO Lee Keesler in a press release. “As a trusted institution, we are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone in our community.”
The Morrison Regional Library was named after former North Carolina Gov. Cameron Morrison. It will now be named SouthPark Regional Library, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library announced on Monday.
In 1898, before he was governor, Morrison was a leader of the “Red Shirts,” a vigilante group that promoted white supremacy tactics and intimated Black people from voting, according to the North Carolina History Project. In 1920, Morrison, a Democrat, was elected North Carolina governor.
During his term he focused on improving the road systems and higher education in the state, according to the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
“Cameron Morrison Fought a Glorious Fight For the Cause of White Supremacy in North Carolina in 1898-1900,” read one of his 1920 newspaper ads when he ran for governor, according to the Charlotte Observer.
While he participated in the white supremacy campaigns of the turn of the century, as governor, Morrison “sought improved race relations and particularly combated lynching,” according to the North Carolina History Project.
Morrison died in 1953.
The land the library was built on was donated in 1989 by the Harris family, who named the library in honor of their grandfather, Morrison. Library officials and the Harris family worked together to come to a resolution on the name change, Lee told CNN.
“We remain as committed to building a stronger Charlotte-Mecklenburg today as we did when we gifted land more than 30 years ago for a needed library,” said Johnny Harris, Morrison’s grandson, in the press release. “Our family and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library share a mutual pride in strengthening our community, and we recognize that our libraries are a wonderful benefit to county residents.”
Lee says that he hopes they set a good example of how two parties can come together and “put events and activities from 100 plus years ago behind us for the benefit for the entire community.”
The 10 items that were removed from public view will either be persevered in the library’s archives, given to a museum or sold. Some of these items include; photograph of the Morrison farm, a photograph of Beaver Dam Plantation, and a lithograph of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
The name change comes during a time when many public entities and city officials are either renaming buildings or removing controversial monuments, flags and statues from public view.
Last week, Alabama State University removed the name of former Alabama Gov. Bibb Graves from a residence hall. Graves was propelled into political power in the 1920s through the support of the Ku Klux Klan, the university said.