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Minneapolis Street Renamed For John Cheatham, City's 1st Black Fire Captain

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis is officially renaming a street Thursday after one of the city's first black firefighters.

Captain John Cheatham Avenue runs parallel to Minnehaha and Hiawatha. It's between 34th and 43rd Streets.

Cheatham was born into slavery in Missouri and moved with his family to Minnesota after the Emancipation Proclamation. He became a fire captain with Minneapolis in 1899 and died in 1918. Records from that far back aren't airtight, but historians generally believe he was the first Black person to hold that position in the city.

As a young man, he worked at Fire Station 24 in a redlined neighborhood.

Cheatham Avenue
(credit: City of Minneapolis)

"This is a really joyous day for me and a long time coming, and the reason it is so joyous for me is because I know I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. And capt. Cheatham is certainly a big set of shoulders for me to stand on," Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said.

The street name replaces Dight Avenue. City Council member Andrew Johnson, who represents Ward 12, said Charles Dight does not deserve to have a street named after him.

"A pretty bad person, somebody named Charles Dight, who led the eugenics movement in Minnesota that resulted in the forced sterilization of hundreds of Minnesotans," Johnson said.

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