South Minneapolis street renamed in honor of John Cheatham

A Minneapolis street has been renamed in honor of the life and legacy of John Cheatham, the city's first Black fire captain.

Community leaders gathered Thursday morning to officially replace the street signs of Dight Avenue to its new name, Cheatham Avenue. The previous namesake, Charles Fremont Dight, was a physician, Minneapolis alderman who founded the Minnesota Eugenics Society in 1923, and known Adolf Hitler supporter.

City council member Andrew Johnson worked with community members on the renaming process. They eventually voted to replace the street's namesake to honor Cheatham.

John Cheatham, believed to be the first Black captain in Minneapolis in 1899 (City of Minneapolis)

Cheatham became the first Black fire captain with the Minneapolis Fire Department in 1899. From 1907 until he retired in 1911, he worked out of Fire Station 24, which is about two blocks from the newly named street, which runs from 34th Street East to 43rd Street East.

According to the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, Cheatham was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri in 1855. He was freed in 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. His family moved to Minneapolis where he graduated and worked before becoming a firefighter in 1888. He's remembered as one of the earliest Black firefighters in the Minneapolis Fire Department.