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Historic Aycock neighborhood in Greensboro may change name

GREENSBORO, N.C. – From street signs to garbage cans to historical markers, it’s hard to miss the Aycock name, when you’re in the Historic Aycock Neighborhood.

But soon, the name and all its signage will come down.

“It’s a chance to rebrand ourselves,” said David Horth, president of the Historic Aycock Neighborhood Association.

On Monday, the group voted to change their name, after controversy started last year over Aycock’s legacy.

Charles B. Aycock was a leader in public education in the early 19th century but also a leading spokesman in the white supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900.

“Try to get rid of all that negativity and all that baggage,” said District 2 Councilman Jamal Fox. “A lot of the history behind Charles B. Aycock, nothing against how people feel one way or another, but this community felt that they could step above all that negativity.”

Neighbors voted to rename the district after the Dunleith estate, the first property on record to be settled in the neighborhood in the 1850s, according to research by UNCG professor David Wharton.

In January, Guilford County School board members voted to rename Aycock Middle School after Melvin C. Swann, a Guilford County educator for more than 30 years.

Last year, UNCG also removed the Aycock name from its auditorium.

“It could be Dunleith Neighborhood,” Horth said. “It could be Dunleith Gardens.”

But the Dunleith name choice has also caused some controversy.

The estate was owned by Judge Robert Dick, a well-known lawyer and politician, whose family owned slaves, according to Wharton’s research.

After the Civil War, Dick hired his slaves and left them some of his property.

“Some people are still going to say, ‘yes you went from white supremacy to a history of owning slaves, you know what really changed in the community?’” Fox said.

Most neighbors welcome the new name and think it’s a step in a better direction.

“It’s going to be a sticky situation to find someone in the south who was a prominent figure who was 100 percent clean, who doesn’t have some kind of shadows, some kind of conflict,” said neighbor Elaine Feeny.

“For me I welcome the change, but others don’t feel the same,” said neighbor Fabio Camara.

The name change still has to be approved by the city council which could take up to two months, according to Fox.