by Ryan Hill

OAK PARK (CBS13) — A simple street sign in Oak Park is causing a complicated issue.

Mule Alley has sparked debate in the neighborhood. Some say it’s a reminder of a negative time in the nation’s history.

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The homes on Mule Alley were built as a part of the City of Sacramento’s “Alley Activation,” program. The plan was to create more urban infill housing. Once the homes were constructed in the Oak Park area alleyway, they needed new street addresses.

The developer filed an application with the city to change the name of Mule Alley. In the application, the developer stated, “We selected the name ‘Mule,’ to reference the historic policy of offering African Americans ’40 acres and a mule.’”

The phrase originates from the promise of giving every freed slave, 40 acres of land and a mule, as labor compensation after the Civil War. It was a promise never fulfilled.

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CBS13 spoke with some people who were not aware of the “40 acres and a mule” connection. Some people who have long ties to Oak Park feel the name should be changed.

“Yes, considering the history of the area and the culture,” Dorothy Benjamin said.

CBS13 spoke with some people who were in favor of changing the name but, didn’t dive too deep into the meaning behind the street’s name.

“I wouldn’t want to live on Mule Alley just because of the name,” Carrie Malenab said. “The connotation, I’d have to give some thought to.”

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“I don’t know that I would be offended because I wouldn’t think that deep into the connotation,” Hope Elder said.

Benjamin told CBS13 that she hosted events for Black Culture Days honoring Nathaniel Colley, Sacramento’s first African-American attorney. The developer of the homes and Oak Park community members are trying to rename the street after him.

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“We honored him at our reception for the many, many accomplishments that he made in the area of civil rights,” Benjamin said.

Elder told us Colley was a motivational figure to enter the legal field.

“I’m an attorney and he was an inspiration of mine,” Elder said. ”So, I would be very impressed if they changed the name to that.”

Some whose homes back up to Mule Alley said they think it would be a good way to celebrate Sacramento’s historic African-American community.

“If they want to change the name to make sure everyone is included and feels good about it, I think that’s a good thing to do,” Greg Foro said.

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The city’s planning department said it’s unknown how long the process of changing the alley’s name could take. The public has until August 9th to submit their concern regarding the name change.