The road name may look like it has racist meaning, but its past suggests anything but.
From Glennon C. “Jim” Crow’s helping Black and white neighbors alike in the early 1930s to the old Crow homeplace serving as a federal hospital during the Civil War, Jim Crow Road would seem the perfect name for the road connecting McEver Road to Lake Lanier.
Instead, the road, which sits at a crossroads that’s a key entrance to Flowery Branch, has come under fire because of the name’s instant connection to segregation-era Jim Crow laws that oppressed African Americans.
Petitions have circulated for and against the road name, and Flowery Branch City Council is set to take up the issue at its meeting Thursday, July 2. Mayor Mike Miller is proposing changing the name of the city’s portion of the road to G.C. Crow Road.
The stretch is short – just 400 feet between McEver and Radford roads – but the move is important, especially with the climate concerning racial equality, Miller said.
“I’ve been reluctant to change it because I don’t want to erase the history of a man who was so good for our area,” Miller said in an interview this week.
“However, in this day and time and this atmosphere, perception is reality. And the perception of anyone who doesn’t know the area or the story behind that road name, when they’re entering Flowery Branch, at a major gateway for our city, they see that name. And the perception is the city is a racist city.”
“The longstanding history of slavery and mistreatment of African Americans is being represented by this street name,” the pro-name change petition states.
The petition seeking the name to remain the same call for those pushing the change to “stop the race baiting.”
“Leave our town and our roads alone,” says the anti-name change petition, which had drawn about 580 names as of Friday, June 25. “This is not a racial issue. Educate yourself and stop trying to dishonor this man.”
Stephanie Bennett, leading the effort to save the name, said, “As a citizen of Flowery Branch who was born and raised here, I find it disturbing that the city would consider renaming (the road) because of a few hurt feelings.
“My question to the city is why would you allow a group of people not even from here to come in and erase our history? How far will you allow them to push their narrative on you?”
The history of the road isn’t clear.
Flowery Branch City Council
What: proposed renaming of Jim Crow Road on city’s portion of the road to G.C. Crow Road
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, July 2
Where: City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St.
Crow’s grandson, Randy Crow of Flowery Branch said in a 2019 interview that in the late 1980s the Hall County Board of Commissioners named the road in honor of his grandfather, Glennon “Jim” Crow, who once owned the property along its path.
However, Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said, “Our staff has located maps going back to 1970, which show the name of the road as Jim Crow Road, so it was established and named prior to that.”
Crow also said the road was previously known as Old Federal Road. Jim Crow Road and Old Federal Road merge near the lake with Jim Crow continuing to Old Federal Day Use Park and Old Federal Road continuing to Old Federal Campground.
Old Federal Road was part of a larger road that connected Georgia and Tennessee through Native American territory in the early 1800s.
Randy Crow said an effort was made around the time of the 1996 Olympics to put the Crow homeplace on the National Register of Historic Places because of its tie to the Civil War.
“My grandparents didn’t want anything to do with that,” said Crow, adding that the old home has been recently torn down.
The road still has a heavy Crow family presence, he said.
“Half that road out there is direct descendants of (my grandfather),” Crow said.
Hall County is looking at putting up a monument at Alberta Banks Park in honor of Crow’s grandfather and to explain the history of the area. South Hall Commissioner Kathy Cooper has said she has reserved G.C. Crow Road as the name for Hall’s portion of the road but wants to leave it to the family as to when it should be changed.
“I feel like Mr. Crow being honored (with the monument) will help them in that transition, but (the name change) is still their call,” she said.
For Randy Crow’s part, the name should remain as it is – for now.
“Let it go through the cycle of life,” he said.