June 19, 2021
Lawrence, US 91 F
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Pinckney Neighborhood residents voting between 4 finalists for new name

About a year since talks began to change the name of a neighborhood in Lawrence, its residents are voting between four finalists.

In fall of 2020, Pinckney Neighborhood residents voted to rename the area in favor of someone who was not “one of the most ardent defenders of slavery at the Constitutional Convention,” as the neighborhood put it in a news release. 

“George Floyd’s killing in May 2020 sparked protests around the world and forced people to have frank and ongoing conversations about racism in society,” the neighborhood association said in the release. “Locally within the Pinckney Neighborhood, that meant acknowledging the fact that many residents felt uncomfortable honoring Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and his family – particularly since the neighborhood is a historically Black neighborhood.”

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Sixth Street, which forms the south border of the neighborhood, was called Pinckney Street until 1912, according to the release. 

An initial vote narrowed a dozen choices down to the four finalists. One of them differs by only one letter, but represents a vastly different mindset from the Pinckney who owned hundreds of slaves. 

William Pinkney was the seventh U.S. attorney general. He delivered an antislavery speech in 1789 that was turned into a widely circulated pamphlet, according to the association’s website. 

In addition, early documentation of the town used the spelling of “Pinkney” for the street. David Unekis, a neighborhood name committee member, examined that history in detail in a recent essay

The other finalists, according to the neighborhood association’s website, are: 

• Riverbend, for the bend in the Kansas River that creates part of a boundary of the neighborhood.

• Woody Park, in honor of Elgin Woody, a Lawrence citizen who was committed to improving the lives of African American youth. Woody Park at Second and Maine streets was renamed for him in 1973 to recognize his devotion to organizing local sports programs and creating a supportive environment for African American youth at a time when no leagues would allow them to play.

• Cameron’s Woods, for Lawrence founding father and eccentric abolitionist Hugh Cameron. Also known as the “Kansas hermit,” he lived in the neighborhood for just a year, in a treehouse he built in the ravine at Fifth and Indiana streets. 

Voting by mail will continue through this month. Neighborhood residents ages 16 and up are eligible to vote.

Learn more about the name finalists and find more information on the neighborhood association’s website. Unekis also wrote a series of three essays containing historical research on the subject. 

The neighborhood’s boundaries are roughly Sixth Street to the south, Iowa Street/McDonald Drive to the west, the Kansas River to the east and Interstate 70 to the north. 

— Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached via email at mclark@lawrencekstimes.com or 785-422-6363.

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