NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Leaders of a New Orleans nonprofit social services operation discovered an uncomfortable truth as they prepared for a 125th anniversary celebration: the 19th century British clergyman for whom it was named was — although known in his time as a social reformer, prolific author and advocate for the poor — a racist.
And, so, the celebration of what is now Kingsley House, named for the Rev. Charles Kingsley, will include a new name. CEO Keith Liederman said that name may be announced as early as this summer.
Kingsley House was begun as a “settlement house” — an inner-city institution dedicated to fighting poverty — in 1896 by the Rev. Beverly Warner of New Orleans’ Trinity Episcopal Church. Liederman said it was named for Warner’s son, Kingsley, who died as a toddler as well as for Charles Kingsley.
Kingsley House’s governing board was already planning a “brand refresh” as it prepared to commemorate its founding, Liederman said. That involved research on the history of Charles Kingsley and, ultimately, the decision that the institution’s name would have to change. A close look at Kingsley’s writings reveals vehement biases against the Irish, Jews and Catholics, and racist references to Black people.
“He had some of the vilest views of people of color,” Liederman said.
“Within very short order, after becoming aware of the information, our board of directors voted unanimously to move toward a name change,” he said.
Today, Kingsley House provides an array of social services in the New Orleans metro area, including early childhood education and adult day care.
Until the new name is adopted, the organization will continue to operate as Kingsley House.
“We are confident that we’ll establish a unifying name that will strengthen future generations,” Richard J. Roth III, Kingsley House board president said in a statement Thursday.