Political correctness is currently a hot topic with debate raging about to what degree it should be considered in regard our historical past. At its core, ‘political correctness’ is an alternate term for respect, and that is something we should all be embracing.
Political correctness was recently raised in the community with respect to a street that runs parallel to the main street on the northern side with the seemingly problematic name of ‘Negro’ Street.
This issue was considered by the local Chamber of Commerce. It was assumed that the name was disrespectful and, if so, it should be changed. In recent times, some visitors to the village had been noticed taking their photos underneath the street sign as a lark, but this is not the image the locals are seeking for the Wollombi Valley.
Subsequently, the Chamber of Commerce contacted the Cessnock City Council to investigate the history and meaning of the street naming.
Old plans held by the Council indicate that in 1834 the street was originally named ‘McDougall Street’. And then, in 1861, the name was changed to ‘Negro Street’. And therein lies the mystery.
The reason behind the change of name is not completely understood. However, an historic search by the Council’s Heritage Officer revealed that the name ‘Negro’ Street may have originated from the common brand of tobacco which men would gather to smoke along that street in the early pioneering days of the village. But there is also another view. Local historians suggest that Negro Street is the sister street to the adjacent Aleppo Street – this is because Negro and Aleppo are derivations from the common names of two Mediterranean pine trees (Pinus Nigra and Pinus Halepensis) found around the area.
Both explanations appear feasible and both are evidence of an interesting and non-offensive meaning to the name.
And so currently, it seems, that the name is not disrespectful when placed in its proper historical context. In fact, the Chamber of Commerce now view this anecdote as an interesting historical quirk of the village, and consequently they plan to undertake further verification of the naming and perhaps, rather than seek to change the name, will work towards placing a plaque near the street sign detailing this interesting historical story.
David & Murray