The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted April 13 to rename Barringer Academic Center for Charles H. Parker, a late local activist who helped build the West Boulevard community. It is the second vote this year to change schools named for people with racist connections or backgrounds. Starting next school year, the school will be Charles H. Parker Academic Center.
"We are proud to rename this school for Mr. Parker, who was born into slavery and who went on to build schools, establish churches and provide affordable housing in the African-American community," said Elyse Dashew, Board chair. "His legacy in public education in Charlotte, as well as his visionary civic activism, will serve as an inspiration to students and the school and our district as a whole."
Barringer Academic Center was built in the 1950s on land purchased by local businessman Osmond L. Barringer, who developed much of the West Boulevard corridor in the 1920s. Barringer specified that the school be named to honor his father, a Confederate general, and his brother, an advocate of so-called "scientific racism." Parker, who died in 1939, was a visionary leader in the African-American community. He helped found Moore's Sanctuary A.M.E. Zion Church and Plato Price High School, and his children helped build affordable housing on Parker's 19th-century homestead.
Renaming is part of a deliberate process initiated by current Superintendent Earnest Winston to identify and rename schools named after individuals who owned slaves or promoted slavery, expressed racist or bigoted views, or actively opposed equality. "We do not want our schools to intentionally or unintentionally demonstrate values that our district does not support," Winston said. "As our nation continues the journey toward full equality for all citizens, we think these names and symbols are important."
The school is a nationally certified magnet school. Located near the intersection of West Boulevard and Clanton Road, it sits on the site of an 18th-century gold mine. In a nod to that unusual history, the school's entrance features two large round stones that were used to pulverize rock in order to extract gold ore.
Barringer is the second CMS school to be renamed because of links to a racist past. The Board voted earlier this year to change the name of Zebulon Vance High to Julius L. Chambers High. Vance was a North Carolina governor and slave owner who fought for the Confederacy. Chambers was a Charlotte civil rights lawyer who fought for desegregation of schools, including a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that resulted in busing to integrate CMS.
The motion was introduced by Board Vice Chair Thelma Byers-Bailey. She represents District 2, which includes Barringer. "Names and symbols matter. They reflect who we are and what we believe. Our country's painful, shameful history of racial injustice is the backdrop to this endeavor," said Byers-Bailey, Board vice-chair. "We want our schools, in their names as well as their instructional practices, to offer inspiration to every student."
The renaming will take effect at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.