Minneapolis renames street to honor first Black firefighter captain

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Family members reflect on the life of John Cheatham, Minneapolis’ first Black fire captain, after the city renamed a street in his honor.

Last year, a local organization petitioned the city rename Dight Avenue because Charles Fremont Dight had ties to ableism, the Third Reich and the eugenics movement.

Dight Avenue was officially changed to Cheatham Avenue on Thursday.

A century later, John Chateam is still inspiring others to keep climbing the ladder.

Cheatham left his mark on Minneapolis becoming the first black fire captain over a century ago.

But the journey was not easy.

“He was born a slave in Missouri, and our family followed the Mississippi river up to Minnesota,” Alcindor Hollie, who’s related to Cheatham, said.

Hollie is Cheatham’s great-great-great-nephew.

Stories were passed down among family members to keep his life and legacy alive.

Cheatham battled fires, but was also faced with racism and oppression.

He spent most of his time working out of Fire Station 24 before retiring in 1911.

Now, just two blocks away, a street is named after him in his honor.

“Having a street named after him, seeing all the African American firefighters, he definitely paved the way for that,” Hollie said.

Kris Edmond, Minneapolis firefighter, has been putting out fires with MFD for four years.

He said Cheatham’s story proves nothing is out of reach.

“We have so many adversities facing us still, but he had even more at that time. So for him to accomplish what he accomplished, it just inspired me to know that I can accomplish whatever I set out to do,” he said.

For many, this was the first time Cheatham’s history was brought to the forefront.

“I think that it’s time that we start to uncover some of the accomplishments that African-Americans have done in the city and how it contributes to the city that it is now,” Edmond said.

The new street sign is located in South Minneapolis, a few blocks from George Floyd square.