We should give thanks to Councilman Al Vann for again raising the issue of the naming of Bedford-Stuyvesant's streets and avenues.
Councilman Vann's office has put together a list of Bed-Stuy's byways, with accompanying brief bios of the historical figures whose names now grace the street signs.
The irony here is that many of the figures were slave holder and slave traders.
Vann acknolwedges having a political as well as historical motive in putting this list together. He still is piqued that the City Council thwarted the wishes of himself and Councilman Charles Barron to have a section of Gates Avenue named after the late black activist Sonny Carson.
And so in making the case that many of Bed-Stuy's street names have, let's say, sullied backgrounds, he's also making the argument that the names should be, in many cases, changed.
In the newsletter that the Councilman sent out to his constituents, listing the streets names and their origins, he also included a list of black "heroes" and "sheroes" who would make honorable replacements.
We took it upon ourselves to add to that latter list the name of the late Bertram L. Baker, who was the first black elected official in Brooklyn (having won a seat to the State Assembly in 1948) and who lived for half a century on Jefferson Avenue and died right in his house there, a house which (in the words of Councilman Barron) is named after "a slave-holding pedophile."
We should also disclose here that Bert Baker was an honored ancestor of ours.
But more on all this later.
For now, those who care about Bed-Stuy should go through the following list of names and bio sketches that we put into a Web format, and find out which historical figures were slave holders, slave traders, anti-slavery heroes, or mere innocent bystanders.
Note: Keep in mind that in recent years the names of some Bed-Stuy
streets - and parts of some other streets - have been renamed.
For example, Sumner Avenue was renamed Marcus Garvey Blvd.
We think this was a strange re-naming because Charles Sumner, the 19th century figure after whom the street was originally named, was one of the strongest anti-slavery politicians of his day. Go figure.
Be that as it may, enjoy the research.
Simply click the link just under this sentence, and then find and click the street name you want to investigate.