Atlanta is changing the names of three streets that echo the city’s Civil War past.
Confederate Avenue will become United Avenue, East Confederate Avenue will become United Avenue S.E. and Confederate Court will become Trestletree Court on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“For our community to truly be One Atlanta, we must write a new chapter in our own history,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement after signing a bill ordering the name changes. “The imagery and symbolism of these names and monuments represent systematic injustice, persecution and cruelty. That is not who we are as a city.”
The changes were recommended by an advisory committee established last fall to address Confederate iconography in Atlanta, the statement said.
NPR member station WABE reports that residents have complained for years about southeast Atlanta’s Confederate Ave. and that efforts to change its name were renewed in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year.
A petition created shortly after the deadly Charlottesville rally called on Bottoms to change Confederate Avenue’s name amassed over 10,000 signatures.
“Symbols are meaningful,” wrote the petition’s organizer Joe Thomas.
“Atlanta must stand up and declare that neo-Confederates, Nazis, white nationalists, and their allies are not welcome here, and neither are their symbols,” he said.
“The avenue’s name parades a dark and hateful history that is long overdue for active change,” Atlanta resident Carrie Hodge wrote alongside her signature.
Others think the name change is akin to erasing history. In September, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported comments from an Atlanta City Council listening session on the potential name change.
“When I was a young boy, you were proud to be an Atlantan, proud to be a Georgian, proud to be a Southerner, and you were darn proud to be a descendant of Confederate ancestors,” said David Moreland, who spoke at the public session. The newspaper said Moreland described himself as a sixth-generation Georgian.
The Journal Constitution noted the “overwhelming number of speakers” at the listening session were supportive of the name change.
The advisory committee released a report last year recommending the immediate renaming of more than 30 streets.
Other Atlanta streets named after Confederate figures will remain untouched, at least for now — including Hardee St, named after the Confederate General William J. Hardee, Lee St., named after the Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Forrest St., named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate Army general and prominent leader and founder of the Ku Klux Klan.
Even so, City Council member Carla Smith, who sponsored the bill, told WABE the bill is “the beginning” of similar initiatives.
Photo Credit: Curbed Atlanta