Newly-created task force to address 1960s removal of historic Black neighborhood to make way for CNU expansion

Newly-created task force to address 1960s removal of historic Black neighborhood to make way for CNU expansion

April 2, 2024

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The City of Newport News announced that the final members have been named for a new task force that aims to research how Christopher Newport University‘s expansion in the 1960s dismantled a predominantly Black neighborhood, and what role the university and city played in that development.

Only a handful of residents of the Shoe Lane remain near and on university property. In 1961, an all-white city council in Newport News voted to dismantle the neighborhood for the city’s public use.

The people living there were given only a fraction of what the land was worth. Now, CNU President William Kelly and Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones have created a task force to better understand what happened to this once-thriving Black community.

The city said that in addition to the creation of the task force, it and the university will “seek to acknowledge the past, preserve the Shoe Lane neighborhood’s heritage, and pave the way for informed and equitable strategies moving forward.”

Kelly and Jones developed this formal charge and will share it with the task force:

“We charge the task force with researching the removal of the historic Shoe Lane community and the expansion of the campus of Christopher Newport University. You will assess the circumstances that led to those decisions and their impact. We charge you to approach this work with integrity, diligence, and open minds. Your work has the potential to serve as a model for our Commonwealth and the nation at large for how institutions and cities can preserve and address the past while charting a path toward a just and inclusive future that includes the voices of all vested parties.”

Newport News Vice Mayor Curtis Bethany and CNU Provost Quentin Kidd are appointed to serve as co-chairs of the task force. Additionally, Kelly and Jones each named two additional members:

  • Regina Brayboy (appointed by President Kelly) is chair of the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion at CNU and a member of the University’s Board of Visitors.
  • Vidal Dickerson (appointed by President Kelly) is CNU’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
  • Cleon Long (appointed by Mayor Jones) is a Newport News City Councilman representing Central District 2, Seat B.
  • Joni Ivey (appointed by Mayor Jones) is a community leader and a retired Chief of Staff for Congressman Bobby Scott.

The task force’s work is planned across three phases:

  • Phase 1: Research and Understanding
  • Phase 2: Recommendations
  • Phase 3: Implementation

A comprehensive report of the task force’s findings is scheduled for a later date, however, no timeline for the completion of the phases has been established at this time.

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