Prodded by a petition drive, Minneapolis may rename a street that memorializes a former council member best known for championing eugenics and Adolf Hitler.
The petition to rename Dight Avenue has gathered 750 signatures since June 1 and has the support of City Council Member Andrew Johnson, whose south Minneapolis ward includes the street.
The avenue was named for Charles F. Dight, a physician who served four years on the City Council, shortly after he left office in 1918. According to a 1984 article in "Minnesota History," Dight contributed to the passing of an ordinance requiring milk pasteurization.
He followed his time in public office by spearheading pro-eugenics initiatives. He drove the creation of the Minnesota Eugenics Society in 1923 and championed a forced sterilization law that was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 1925. He also offered effusive support for Hitler's plan to sterilize those with mental disabilities.
Noah McCourt, executive director of the Minnesota Disability Justice Network, said he started the petition because the neighborhood is diverse and the name could be hurtful to residents.
"In a community that's been traumatized, making some of these more simplistic strides to address the historical and generational trauma that people face, I think, is a really positive step forward," McCourt said.
Johnson said he is pursuing a name change, and his staff is drafting a letter to residents of the area seeking their feedback. He said he has some alternative names of notable people, but would not share them Monday.
"Having a street named after you is a huge honor," Johnson said. "I think we have an obligation to regularly consider how we are honoring people."
Johnson declined to say exactly how much the change would cost, but he said the number would be "insignificant." He reasoned that street signs are being updated all the time, and the city already has access to a shop that does such replacements.
City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey would have to approve a name change, but Johnson said he doesn't anticipate any resistance or attempts to defend Dight.
"Charles Dight is somebody who clearly did not share the values of our open and welcoming community," Johnson said.
Zekriah Chaudhry • 612-673-7186