Tempe City Council will vote Thursday to adopt several new street and park names because some were named after members of a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Hudson Park, Redden Park, Harelson Park, Hudson Lane, and East and West Laird Streets are among the areas being renamed.
Should the council approve the renaming, a deadline day will be set for executing the plan. A reimbursement will then be sent to the residents who will have to pay to change their addresses.
Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching referred to the renaming process as "significant and historic" while addressing the council at work study session on Feb. 9.
Despite the name change, associate professor of African American studies Rashad Shabazz said changing the street names is only a start to acknowledging Tempe's history with racism.
"Changing the name doesn't erase the history or the contemporary ways in which white supremacy and anti-blackness make themselves visible in a place like Tempe," Shabazz said.
East Laird Street would be renamed Obregon Street to recognize medical missionary Pedro "Pete" Obregon, who led hundreds of mission trips to Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe to give medical care to underserved international communities.
West Laird Street would be renamed to Romo-Jones Street in honor of Adolfo Romo and Joaquina Jones, who fought and won a court case for their children to be able to attend school with white children in Maricopa County in Romo v. Laird in 1925.
Hudson Lane would be changed to Thomas Lane in recognition of local business owners Maggie and Theodore Thomas.
Hudson Park would be renamed Parque de Soza, in recognition of the Soza family, who has a long history in Tempe's police department and education systems.
Redden Park would be changed to Michelle Brooks-Totress Park to recognize the former chair of the Tempe History Museum African American advisory board Michelle Brooks-Totress. Brooks-Totress helped lead the way for Juneteenth to become a city holiday.
Harelson Park would be renamed Mary and Moses Green Park in honor of the first African American landowners in Tempe's history, Mary and Moses Green, who bought land in 1888 near Rural Road and Warner Road in what is now south Tempe.
Sixth Street Park would also be renamed Ragsdale-MLK Park, in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lincoln Ragsdale, an ASU alumnus who brought King to campus in 1964. Ragsdale was a Tuskegee Airman and advocated for the integration of education and housing in the Phoenix metro area.
This discussion began in 2020 when a resident submitted an email to the council that prompted the city to look into the history of the names. The Tempe History Museum investigated Klan records from the area and discovered records from Butte Klan No. 3, a branch of the KKK that was active in the Tempe area until the 1920s. Among the group members were mayors, city council members and school board members.
Shabazz said Tempe had restrictive housing policies into the 1960s that prevented African Americans from accessing equal housing. He said Tempe should focus on increasing housing opportunities to the African American community now, and should grapple and acknowledge with that history of discrimination.
"The streets being named after Klansmen really illustrates how white supremacy and racism were woven into the geographic landscape of Tempe," Shabazz said. "It really shines a light on the extent that white supremacy was viewed, it shows how dominant and widely accepted it was."
According to Tempe city policy, the council reserves the right to rename any city facility if it is in the best interest of the city.
Residents received postcards to give notice of the potential changes, with official letters being sent out should the motion pass at the city council meeting on March 2.
Edited by Shane Brennan, Reagan Priest, Sophia Balasubramanian and Caera Learmonth.