Charlotte celebrates first African American Marines with new street name
Charlotte has renamed Phifer Avenue to Montford Point Street in honor of the first African Americans who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1942.
“Today is a good day because we get to acknowledge and show appreciation for the contribution that the Montford Point Marines ... to recognize their sacrifice and service,” said Lt. Gen. Walter Gaskins USMC (Ret), secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military & Veterans Affairs.
Speaking through a representative, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said the renaming is one of the ways of identifying symbols of racism and replacing them with names of pride.
Montford Point is the North Carolina Marine base where African Americans trained because they were not allowed to congregate with their white counterparts. Charlotteans were among the Marines who enlisted at the base into the national service between 1942 and 1949.
“They had to fight for their right to fight,” said the president of the National Montford Point Marine Association, Dr. James T Averhart Jr, adding that because of the sacrifices of those Marines, thousands of Americans are reaping the benefits “and standing on the shoulders of these Marines.”
“Today’s definitive actions, naming a street after the heroic men of Montford Point is another great step, a beacon of light signifying the ideals of justice and equality that our nation was founded upon,” Dr. Averhart said.
City council member Malcolm Graham said the city worked with residents and community members who all agreed to the name change.
“We worked with those who are here and they came up with the name Montford Point to honor those who served in our military. We are trying to move beyond our dark history when streets are named after Confederate soldiers and those who perpetuated hatred and racism,” he said.
Nine streets have been listed for renaming and so far only two have been unveiled. The initiative started in January of last year when the city commissioned a group to study names of streets and monuments in Charlotte.
23, 2011, former President Barack Obama signed a law awarding all Montford Point Marines the Congregational Gold Medal in recognition of their personal sacrifice and service during World War II. There were approximately 20,000 Marines who trained at the Montford Point Camp.
During the wake of George Floyd’s murder, there has been strong advocacy towards pulling down monuments that celebrate Confederate leaders, slave owners and white supremacy in the United States.