Norman C. Francis Knocks Jefferson Davis Off the Block: A Street Renamed

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My wife Leslie and I often troll each other about our respective HBCUs. I am an alumnus of Southern University and A&M College, the only HBCU that has its own system of schools and home to the legendary “Human Jukebox” Marching Band. Leslie is an alumnus of Xavier University of Louisiana, an HBCU that consistently ranks in the top five of all HBCUs in the nation and home to a world-renown school of pharmacy.

I brag about the football team that Southern has that Xavier does not. Leslie brags about Xavier’s academic prowess. We both acknowledge the assets each other’s respective alma maters have to offer, and our pride in being educated by Black institutions that made a way for generations of Black folks to be educated far surpasses our in-house rivalry.

I met Dr. Norman C. Francis, the man who served president of Xavier for 47 years, back in 2015 during their homecoming weekend when Leslie was receiving a 40 Under 40 alumni award. When I informed Dr. Francis that I was an SU alum, he took a slight jab at me until I reminded him he was wearing a blue and gold tie (Southern’s colors).

But alas, Dr. Francis has more than the last laugh when it comes to achievement, as the New Orleans City Council recently voted to rename one of its busiest streets after him.

The street formerly known as Jefferson Davis Parkway, president of the Confederate states, has been renamed Norman C. Francis Parkway. The official change will take place in January 2021.

The vote to rename the street received a unanimous 7-0 vote on the council and is reflective of the kind of work New Orleans organizations such as Take ‘Em Down NOLA has championed for years in the fight to remove racist iconography, landmarks and street names in the city.

Congrats to Dr. Francis. I hope he wears a gold and white tie (Xavier’s colors) if there is a public renaming ceremony, as it was his legacy in presiding over such a dynamic institution of higher learning that made it all possible.