BOSTON (AP) — Boston officials approved renaming the square in a historically black neighborhood to Nubian Square on Thursday, the city’s latest effort to reconcile its slave ties and past racism.
The vote by the city’s Public Improvement Commission came after a citywide ballot referendum failed in November.
Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh, who supported the effort, congratulated advocates who have pushed for years to change the name of Dudley Square in the Roxbury neighborhood, which overwhelmingly favored the renaming.
“When residents speak out, change happens,” he tweeted after the vote.
Roxbury is the historic center of the state’s African American community. It’s where a young Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and Malcolm X grew up.
Supporters wanted the commercial center renamed because Roxbury resident Thomas Dudley was a leading politician when Massachusetts legally sanctioned slavery in the 1600s. But opponents countered that slavery was also part of the ancient Nubian empire, which ruled over swaths of modern-day Egypt and Sudan thousands of years ago.
Minister Rodney Muhammad of the Nation of Islam called the vote historic.
“It will be a teaching moment for Boston, and a teaching moment on the national level,” he said Thursday.
Sadiki Kambon, chair of Nubian Square Coalition, said after the vote that his group has its sights set next on changing the neighborhood’s Dudley Station subway stop to reflect the new name. That requires approval from the state transit agency.
Last year, the Red Sox successfully petitioned to change the name of a street near Fenway Park that honored a former team owner who had resisted integration.
Other groups also want to rename Faneuil Hall, a downtown landmark built by a wealthy 18th-century slave owner.
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