New Brunswick

'Racist' road name in Kings County changed

A road name with racist connotations east of Sussex has been changed, as Negro Brook Road has now become Harriet O'Ree Road.

Harriet O'Ree Road now honours early black settler in area

An old road with a 'culturally insensitive' name now honours an early black settler. (CBC)

For years, the name of a road east of Sussex in Kings County has been an ugly reminder to New Brunswick's past.

Many looked at "Negro Brook Road" as a leftover of a racist heritage.

But now, after residents requested the province do something about it, the road has been renamed.

"I'm really delighted that New Brunswick has finally taken the step to officially disassociate themselves with the racism that was part of that name," said Susan Tyler, who has lived on the road for 45 years.

During that time, she refused to say she lived on Negro Brook Road and "always substituted other things, like we called this road Ceder Camp Road," Tyler said.

Susan Tyler, who has lived on the road for 45 years, refused to use its official name. (CBC)
It's now called the Harriet O'Ree Road, a name with special significance to the area.

O'Ree was a black woman living in there according to the 1861 West Sussex census, but little else is known about her.

"We're still trying to find out some more information on her," said Ralph Thomas, from the New Brunswick Black History Society.

"All we know that, is that she lived in that area, she was a servant in that area."

Thomas said it's not only important to change the name, but also find a way to point out there was a reason the name was there in the first place, and to honour that legacy.

"The idea was we keep the presence of the fact that black folks lived in that area, there was a settlement in that area," he explained.

More names to be changed

There are still eight other culturally insensitive names remaining that Thomas and others are working to have changed.

Ralph Thomas of the New Brunswick Black History Society says they are still trying to find out more information about Harriet O'Ree. (CBC)
"There are distressingly several places in New Brunswick with that unacceptable name and they need to change them all," Tyler agreed.

It also means life gets a little easier for Tyler, the only permanent resident of the road, who has always stood firm on her principles.

"It's nice to think, now when I go vote, even though I've worked at the polls and everybody knows where I live, I have to sign statements because I won't sign on to and never have signed on to officially being from the unacceptable word," she said.

She now proudly says she's Susan Tyler, from Harriet O'Ree Road.