MATTHEWS, N.C. — The word “plantation” was removed from every street name in a Matthews senior-living community Tuesday, months after the community itself changed its name to remove any ties to slavery.
The community once known as “Plantation Estates” changed its name in late 2020 to Matthews Glen. At the time, the community just southeast of Charlotte released a statement saying it was making the change to be more inclusive.
“We have long recognized the controversy that surrounds the word 'plantation' and are sensitive to how it is commonly understood,” Matthews Glen executive director Steve Messer said. “The decision to rename the community is representative of the values we have always stood for and our larger commitment to be recognized as an open, inclusive and diverse community.”
But in the months since the name change, three streets within the community continued to bear the name “plantation.”
The community recently petitioned the town of Matthews and Mecklenburg County to change its street names, Maureen Keith, a communications specialist for the Town of Matthews, said.
Both municipalities agreed to the change. The street name changes became effective June 15. Crews began changing the street signs immediately.
Plantation Estates Drive became Pavilion View Drive; Plantation Clubhouse Drive became Clubhouse Vista Drive; Plantation Crossing Drive became Deer Crossing Drive.
More and more communities in the country are having a reckoning around names with ties to the antebellum South.
“The history remains, but at what point are you validating it?” Aman Nadhiri, an associate professor at Johnson C. Smith Unversity, pondered. “Do you want your children and your children’s children to see it and think this is normal? Because this is normalizing as well … I think there is a social cost that’s being felt by people who live in some of these areas that have these names.”
That social cost has turned into social justice in communities across the Southeast.
Demonstrators gathered at the Wakefield Plantation neighborhood in Raleigh earlier this month to lobby for the community to change its name. Meanwhile, petitions for name changes in two plantation-named communities in Charleston, South Carolina, have received hundreds of signatures.
Nadhiri said he believes terms and symbols that were once more socially acceptable are now becoming more taboo.
“We’re seeing a shift from the line between soft racism and hard racism,” Nadhiri said. “The line has shifted dramatically and I think people are struggling to catch up.”
But while the social acceptance of the word plantation may be changing, Nadhiri pointed out that the symbolism behind the word has always been one that conjures deep feelings of pain and trauma.
“Plantation has always been a word that’s been associated with some kind of dispossession and oppression,” Nadhiri said. “In this country, it represents slavery.”
Matthews Glen is home to more than 700 residents. It has been open since 1988.