The Cameron name for the neighborhood stemmed from the Cameron family of enslavers, most notably Duncan W. Cameron. Cameron owned several plantations in North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. They had previously owned the land that is now the Cameron neighborhood and the nearby shopping center.
Cameron Park, a neighborhood across the street from the belltower side of NC State University, was initially developed in 1910. The developers excluded Black people from buying property and living in the area, except as live-in domestic servants.
The nearby Oberlin Village neighborhood is a historically Black-founded community next to the shopping district. It is the only surviving freedman’s village that grew out of a free Black settlement in North Carolina. Oberlin VIllage has been encroached upon by developments from the shopping district, thereby erasing the heritage of the area and tying it to enslavers rather than the free Black people who established the community.
The non-profit organization, Friends of Oberlin Village, also spoke out about the gentrification and history of the Oberlin Village and Cameron Park areas, which led to the ideas of changing the name of Cameron residential and business areas.
This vote for the name change of Cameron Park comes after the renaming of the shopping center to Village District in January 2021. The owners of the shopping district, Regency Centers, released a statement in January that explained why they were renaming the shopping district.
Here is what Regency Centers said in regards to the name change, “This new brand represents Regency’s commitment to a welcoming environment for all our patrons, neighbors, merchants and employees.”
Along a similar vein, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted in March 2021 to change the name of the library in the Village District shopping center to the Village Regional Library. This was an unanimous decision on the part of the Board of Commissioners.
Wake County Commissioner, Shinica Thomas, said the following about the changes in March, “Wake County embraces and celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion. We want all residents to feel comfortable and respected when they visit any of our buildings.”
As for the Cameron Park name change, residents of the area are said to be proposing name changes for the neighborhood between now and Nov. 15. The name will not be changed on any legal documents or deeds but will be reflected by the city of Raleigh and other public and private agencies.
Some residents have expressed concern about the neighborhood name change being a symbolic gesture after the events and protests of 2020 during the pandemic. They suggested the possibility of creating a fund to support descendants of enslaved persons connected to the Cameron family or students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Whether the rename of the residential area is a symbolic gesture or not is a topic that can continue to be debated, but the name of the Cameron areas will be changed.
We will find out around the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022, what that new name will be and it will most likely be implemented before the end of 2022.