Your View: Consider local black leaders in U.S. Route 1 name change discussion

Your View:  Consider local black leaders in U.S. Route 1 name change discussion

By Jim Bender, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
I am pleased to see that city council seems willing to do at least the bare minimum in response to the report out of the ad hoc committee on Confederate memorials and street names (“Councilors mull Jefferson Davis Highway change,” September 8).

Let us rename the major thoroughfare that currently honors the president of the Confederate States of America — a man who has precious little connection to Virginia and no connection to Alexandria — with all deliberate haste.

It is an embarrassment that in 2016, we have this relic of the late 19th century Lost Cause movement that sought to sanitize the history of chattel slavery and obfuscate the reasons for the Civil War.

It might cost a few dollars to put up new signs, change the stationery for businesses along the road, but it is, in my mind, a small price to pay to retire this name from the public eye and return him to the pages of the history books where he belongs.

But what new name is appropriate? I suppose Patrick Henry Highway would be the easy way, but is it the best way? Your article made little mention of the dozens of other streets and landmarks in Alexandria named for Confederate era heroes that the committee considered changing.

Were they honorable men? Many of them undoubtedly were. Were the names chosen in a manner that reflected the will of all the residents of Alexandria, or just the white men that held political power at that time? Have we given
due consideration to the honorable men and women of Alexandria that are of African ancestry in choosing street names?

Because of our white-dominated — and let’s admit it, racist — past, our street names are not consistent with a balanced view of our history, black and white. Here is an opportunity to make some inroads toward rebalancing that inequity.

I recommend that city councilors visit the Alexandria Black History Museum and pick a name from the men and women honored there when they consider what to rename U.S. Route 1 in our city.

Please, let’s do the right thing when we have a chance to do it.