The worst street sign in Minneapolis just got replaced by the best street sign in Minneapolis.

John Cheatham, born enslaved in 1855, spent his adult life protecting this city and its people.

On Thursday, he protected Minneapolis from one more day of Dight Avenue. A street once named for the founder of the Minnesota Eugenics Society now honors one of this city's first Black firefighters and its very first Black fire captain.

Fire trucks, firefighters, school children, city officials and a sizable crowd of Cheatham family descendants gathered at a south Minneapolis intersection to cheer the new avenue.

"Three, two, one." With a quick tug on a string, the name Dight Avenue tumbled to the ground and Cheatham Avenue took its place of honor, just up the road from the captain's old fire station.

"This was a long time coming," said Paul McDavid, whose grandmother told stories about her great-uncle John, the fireman. "Today is a day that makes us proud."

Charles Fremont Dight, who served on the Minneapolis City Council a century ago, left a legacy that makes us anything but proud. He pushed laws that led to the forced sterilization of generations of vulnerable Minnesotans in state institutions. The fan letter he wrote to Adolf Hitler, "praising your plan to stamp out mental inferiority among the German people" is available for public viewing at the Minnesota Historical Society.

"Charles Dight does not and has not and will never reflect the values of this community," said Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson, who spearheaded the effort to finally rename the diagonal nine-block avenue that runs through his district. "It's a good day because we're taking that name down. But it's a better day because of the name we're putting up. Captain John Cheatham."

Getting his name on the street — and getting Dight's name off it — took years of community effort. It wasn't that anyone particularly liked or admired the Hitler monger, but renaming streets is a hassle and an expense, and this street was tucked between bustling Hiawatha and Minnehaha avenues by the railroad tracks. Easy to overlook — unless you're the congregation of St. James AME, the historic Black church whose parking lot faces the street.

"Every Sunday, they had to look at the name 'Dight Avenue,'" said retired Hennepin County District Judge LaJune Lange, who has researched the history of Minneapolis' Black firefighters for decades.

Now, every time they look at a sign for Cheatham Avenue, she said residents will remember that they live in a city "that gave a descendant of an enslaved family a living wage job, [so] that he could buy a home, settle in the city, make a contribution to his community and live and earn the respect of others."

Just down the road from Cheatham Avenue is the building that once housed the segregated Fire Station 24, where he and other Black firefighters served long ago. After Cheatham retired in 1918, there wouldn't be another Black fire captain in Minneapolis until the 1990s.

"This is a really joyous day, and a day that seems like it was a long time coming," said Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner, the city's second Black fire chief. "And the reason it is so joyous is that I know that I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me.

"Captain John Cheatham," he added, "was certainly a big set of shoulders."

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Minneapolis Fire Chief Brian Tyner is the city's second Black fire chief.