Slavery connection could mean changing name of Fayetteville thoroughfare

March 19, 2019

Murchison Road runs through the heart of historically black neighborhoods in Fayetteville – and it is named after a family that may have once owned slaves.

The possible connection to slavery has local residents discussing the possibility of changing the name of the thoroughfare that cuts through north Fayetteville, connecting downtown with Fort Bragg and Spring Lake.

The funeral home run by Mayor Mitch Colvin’s family has been on Murchison Road since 1971, but Colvin said he’s more interested in economic development along Murchison Road than what the street is called.

“It doesn’t matter to me. I just want a better quality of life for the people that live here,” Colvin said Monday. “I have a special place in my heart for this area, and I want to see it do better.”

Many local residents have noted that the Murchison Road corridor has, for years, lagged behind other parts of Fayetteville in terms of economic growth.

“You’ve got to bring opportunity to people, and that entails making change, and change is uncomfortable for people,” Colvin said.

Part of the history of Murchison Road is Fayetteville State University, a historically black university that moved to north Fayetteville after being established on Gillespie Street, in the southern part of the city, in 1867.

Fayetteville State Chancellor James Anderson said the discussion to change the name of Murchison Road, possibly to University Boulevard, was suggested long before the slavery issue came up.

“I don’t think that the motivation had something to do with Murchison Road having been, parts of it being a former plantation,” Anderson said. “I think this person just loved the university and thought it would be a great idea.”

Not all area residents agree, however.

“There’s a lot of black history here, and to just change the name, you take away power from the history,” resident Dirk Hennigan said. “It’s a good thing to keep the name.”

The Fayetteville Observer is holding a forum about the issue at 6:30 p.m. March 26 at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, at 1217 Murchison Road.