The portion of Jim Crow Road within the Flowery Branch city limits will be renamed G.C. Crow Road, a move city officials and residents said Thursday would clarify its lack of connection to segregationist laws and send a more positive message.
The road’s name has no relation to the segregation-era Jim Crow laws that targeted African Americans but is named after Glennon C. “Jim” Crow, who owned the property along the road. Several descendants of Crow still live in the area.
The portion of the road in the city of Flowery Branch runs about 400 feet between McEver and Radford roads, with the rest of the road lying in Hall County.
Crow legally signed checks and documents as G.C. Crow, so city officials offered that as the new name.
“It’s unfortunate the name is associated with what it is, and it’s unfortunate that Jim Crow’s legacy in this community is tied to that,” Mayor Mike Miller said Thursday. “But perception is reality, and when people come to this community, the perception is that we are a racist community, and that’s just something that at this time I feel is not something we need. It’s another thing in this world that can divide us.”
The Flowery Branch City Council voted in favor of the name change Thursday, July 2, with Councilwoman Leslie Jarchow absent and all others approving the change.
Six community members spoke at a public hearing Thursday, all in favor of the name change. Many said they agreed with Miller, and that although the road’s name had no ties to racism, it was still a reminder of segregation.
“From my perspective as a person of color, Black American, a mom who has to revisit some images and some matters that are unpleasant, these are the kind of conversations that we have to have at the table with our family,” Jeneen Hammond said. “… When you see the name Jim Crow, you think lynchings. You think crosses burning in yards. You think of all the harsh associations connected to that name.”
Diane O’Connell also said the road name sent the wrong message about the community.
“The sign doesn’t do (Crow) any justice at all. It doesn’t point to him. It points to racism,” she said. “And when I first came through, I saw the sign and I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a blatantly racist area.’ … I’ve since come to know that’s not the case, but that’s why I think the name has to change.”
Diana Murphy said renaming the road could honor Crow while making everyone feel welcome.
“When people see this sign, they don’t know of his story. They do know what Jim Crow was, though,” Murphy said. “I am mixed. I am African American and Caucasian. When my family and friends come to visit, they are appalled and even afraid when I give them directions to my house, which is off Jim Crow Road. They question whether it’s safe. They can’t believe this is still around, and is this what Flowery Branch is really like?”
Councilman Joe Anglin, who teaches for Hall County Schools, said his students had asked him about the road while learning about Jim Crow laws, and he understood how the road name was often perceived.
“You can see, though, where somebody is riding through there and they have some sort of education on how things used to be, that that could not sit well with them,” Anglin said.
Councilman Ed Asbridge said he had been initially opposed to changing the road’s name because it seemed “spur-of-the-moment,” but he liked the new name because it still honored Crow as a community leader.
“Looking at the history and looking at the problems that it’s caused and will continue to cause Flowery Branch, this just seems like a way to still honor him, because it’s still his name,” Asbridge said.
Miller relayed a conversation with Crow’s grandson at Thursday’s meeting, saying that his grandson wanted the community to know Crow had not been a racist. During the Great Depression, Crow made caskets for families and bought clothes for families who could not afford proper burials, Miller said. He said Crow also provided food for local families and advocated for water service and road paving for the area.
“(His grandson) wanted it known that he had done so much good for this community, for so many families,” Miller said.
Hall County is considering a monument at Alberta Banks Park to honor Crow. While Commissioner Kathy Cooper, who represents the area, has said she has reserved G.C. Crow Road as the name for Hall’s portion of the road, she wants to allow the Crow family to decide when the name should be changed, The Times reported in June.