Pridgen: Reconsidering Fillmore, hopes Hertel Ave. clash starts 'real conversation' on race

Sep 3, 2020

The Buffalo City Council has begun studying where the name of President Millard Fillmore could be removed from city property, as part of what Council President Darius Pridgen says could be a real conversation on race.

"I am very pleased that it happened," said Pridgen, of recent protests that generate a wider dialogue on race in Buffalo and across the United States.

Rev. Darius Pridgen, President of the Buffalo Common Council
Credit WBFO file photo

"At this point and at this time, I think that the scab has been removed and that we are finally going to have real conversations that there are still racist people, some racist people in America," Pridgen explained.

He saw hopeful signs during a visit to the site of Tuesday's clash on Hertel Avenue.  The demonstrators on-scene were of many races and a wide range of ages.

"On the flip side, there are people, for instance business owners on Hertel, who are furious about" how bar patrons yelled racial slurs as they confronted protesters.

The statue of Millard Fillmore outside Buffalo's City Hall. His support for the Fugitive Slave Act as the nation's 13th President has triggered a reevaluation of how he is commemorated in WNY
Credit WBFO Photo/Dave Debo

As for Millard Fillmore, Pridgen and his Common Council colleagues have a passed a resolution calling for public comments on removing the former President's name from city streets and structures.

While many people want to cut the connection, Pridgen says he has heard from some, notably his sixth-grade teacher, who see value in Fillmore's historical ties with the city of Buffalo.

"Right now, the majority opinion that I'm hearing is that there is a street that is named after Millard Fillmore, and other places that people are saying they want them changed. However, I cannot take away my sixth grade teacher who contacted me to make me aware of why he did why he felt that it should not be .

" As I always try to listen before making a decision, and I thought it is important that we hear both sides, maybe right now I'm only being contacted by one side. Let's hear the other side and then make a decision."