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Barringer Academic Center to be named for longtime leader in Charlotte’s Black community

Devna Bose
·3 min read

Barringer Academic Center will soon be named after Charles H. Parker, a leader in Charlotte’s Black community whose legacy is still alive decades after his death.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education unanimously approved the renaming of Barringer Academic Center to Charles H. Parker Academic Center Tuesday.

The school’s new namesake, Parker, was born into slavery in 1844. Much of his legacy revolves around the historic West Boulevard.

“He’s the kind of role model and history maker that we ought to know more about,” said Board chair Elyse Dashew.

Parker helped start Moore’s Sanctuary A.M.E. Zion Church and was a founder of the Sunday school that became Amay James Presbyterian Church. He led the group that built Plato Price School, which educated Black children in the area for 50 years.

He also helped many Black families acquire land to build homes after he did the same himself. And 31 years after his death, his family helped build Parker Heights Apartments, which still provides affordable housing to West Boulevard residents today.

A total of 1,084 votes were cast among community members, parents, alumni and students to determine the new name for the school.

The school is named for Osmond L. Barringer, who along with his family, were vocal white supremacists during the White Supremacy Campaign of 1898 to 1900.

Initial options included T.J. Reddy, a civil rights activist and artist, and Judy Williams, founder of support group Mothers of Murdered Offspring. However, Williams and Reddy were later found to be ineligible because CMS policy requires that buildings are only named after people who have been dead for at least five years.

Parker died in 1939, according to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

The top three contenders in the end were Parker, Samuel Banks Pride, an educator and organizer, and Charles Sifford, a professional golf player and the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour.

A majority of the vote, 62.8%, consisted of community members. Current students made up 18.8% of the final tally, while 8% came from parents, 7.5% came from alumni and 4% came from staff.

Parker received 616 votes, or 56.8%. Pride followed with 265 votes, or 24.5%, and Sifford with 203 votes, or 18.7%.

Family member support

Some of Parker’s family members spoke in support of the renaming during the meeting’s public participation portion and shared anecdotes about Parker’s legacy and character.

“When he became free, he left the slave system with nothing but the rags on his back,” his great-great-great granddaughter Cathy Lewis said. “He still practiced the principles of giving to his community, being generous to the people around him, and lifting up fellow men.”

Renetta Holloway, another one of Parker’s descendants, said her great-great grandfather is remembered for his commitment to learning and sense of community, especially on West Boulevard.

“It would be an honor and fitting to have Barringer Academic Center named for Charles H. Parker,” Holloway said. “His legacy is consistent with the school’s mission, and we think it would be something to lift the students’ pride. I thank you again for this tremendous opportunity.”

Dashew said she was “inspired” by the words of Parker’s family.

“By naming a school for him, I think our community is going to know a lot more about him and his legacy,” she said. “We can all aspire to be more like Mr. Parker.”

The district started the renaming process for Barringer in October.

Like many other public entities throughout the country, CMS is in the process of removing namesakes and other tributes to racist historical figures from its grounds.

The district previously renamed Zebulon B. Vance High School after Julius L. Chambers, the civil rights lawyer whose work led to a period of integration in CMS. Vance was a slaveowner and Confederate leader.