RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Raleigh’s Cameron Village is rebranding itself as the “Village District,” according to its property owners.
Regency Centers, who said it owns more than 400 retail properties across the U.S., said it is incumbent upon the company to help create a more inclusive future.
“In Raleigh, Regency has made great efforts to listen and better understand history about the name Cameron Village that has been overlooked for generations,” Regency said. “As a result, we are announcing the decision to remove the Cameron name from one of Raleigh’s most iconic landmarks.”
Eric Davidson, Regency Centers’ senior communications manager, says about a year ago the company looked at rebranding the shopping center. It was then they learned about the history behind the name.
“Once we saw the ties of Duncan Cameron, specifically his ties to slavery, the decision was pretty easy. It just wasn’t something that lined up with our company values,” said Davidson.
Davidson says “Friends of Oberlin Village” was instrumental in educating them about the area’s past.
“They really helped us understand the history that we didn’t know. A history that maybe a lot of people didn’t know,” he said.
Friends of Oberlin Village executive director Sabrina Goode says she’s elated by the name change.
“It takes a big person to say ‘hmm, I can correct something that wasn’t right.’ We all make mistakes as a society, as a culture, as a person. But it really takes a big person to say, ‘I own up to it, but I can do something to change or correct it,'” Goode said.
When it opened in 1949 , Cameron Village became the first shopping center between Washington D.C. and Atlanta.
It was built on 160 acres of land purchased from the Cameron family.
The name Cameron stems from Duncan Cameron, who was one of the largest slave owners east of the Mississippi, according to Goode. While his main home was in Orange County, his summer home was along present-day Hillsborough Street near St. Mary’s School.
According to “Friends of Oberlin Village,” the Cameron family gave sites along present-day Oberlin Road to their emancipated slaves.
Goode says her ancestor was one of the founding members of Oberlin Village, which became the largest settlement of free black men and women in Wake County during reconstruction.
“Oberlin Village was on three sides of what was the Cameron Village shopping center,” said Goode. “It’s quite hurtful for everyone to claim the whole area as Cameron Village when it’s not.”
At its peak, more than 1,200 people lived in Oberlin Village. The community built a school and a university, according to Goode.
Four generations later, Goode’s grandfather was a brick mason who helped build the shopping center on the former Cameron land.
“My mother would often tell me she remembers her father coming home with dust and grime and sometimes she would walk to what was Cameron Village to bring him his lunch,” Goode said.
Goode hopes the name change will better reflect the rich history of the area and encourage others to learn more about Raleigh’s past.
According to Davidson, Regency Centers plans to include displays and installations in the shopping center to honor Oberlin Village, and the area’s history.