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Oklahoma Councilwoman: Rename Street Honoring Ex-KKK Member

"I'm not trying to hide from our past but we don't have to honor that past with street names."
Image: University of Oklahoma
Students walk between classes in front of the Bizzell Memorial Library at the University of Oklahoma on March 11, 2015 in Norman, Oklahoma. \Brett Deering / Getty Images, file
/ Source: The Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A city councilwoman is asking homeowners in an Oklahoma college town to rename a street honoring a prominent former university professor and Ku Klux Klan member.

Norman Councilwoman Breea Clark has posted an online petition asking residents to help change the name of DeBarr Avenue. If at least three-fourths of Norman homeowners agree, the city — home to the University of Oklahoma — would be among several cities nationwide renaming monuments and streets named after prominent KKK members.

"I'm not trying to hide from our past but we don't have to honor that past with street names," Clark, who works at the university, told the Oklahoman newspaper.

The block-long street honors Edwin DeBarr, one of the university's first professors and founder of its chemistry department. DeBarr became a grand dragon in the KKK while at the school, and regents forced him out in 1923 because of his Klan involvement.

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Some homeowners who live along DeBarr Avenue support the name change, including 24-year-old student Lourya Winn.

"It does kind of tarnish it a little when you learn," said Winn, who is black.

Last year, University of Tulsa trustees voted to strip John Rogers' name from the law school building because of his ties to the Klan. Rogers helped found the law school in 1943, but also helped incorporate the KKK-affiliated Tulsa Benevolent Association.

In 2013, Tulsa city councilors voted to rename the city's glitzy arts district, which had been named after KKK member Wyatt Tate Brady. The street is still called Brady, but for the Civil War photographer Mathew Brad.

In recent years, protests have increased awareness about the number of buildings and streets named after KKK and Confederate members. From the University of Oregon changing the name of a dormitory buildings, to Yale University renaming one of its colleges that honors a former white supremacist politician and slave owner, to the city of Tulsa re-dedicating a street called “Brady” from honoring a KKK leader to instead honoring a journalist, student demonstrations have opened a national dialogue.

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