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Alexandria City Council divided on renaming vs rededicating Confederate-honoring street names

N. Early Street (image via Google Maps)

Earlier this week, Alexandria’s City Council approved the introduction and first reading of legislation to change the names of streets currently honoring Confederate leaders.

The legislation, the first fruit of a year-long effort to start a renaming process for streets celebrating leaders of the Confederacy, heads to a final vote on Saturday, Jan. 20.

While the Council was unanimously in favor of the proposal, there remained some disagreement on the dais on the efficacy of renaming vs rededication. Early Street, for example, would be rededicated from honoring Confederate General Jubal Early to honoring ‘Early’ the time concept.

“I’m less supportive of ‘Early in the morning'” said City Council member Alyia Gaskins. “I think we should recognize people when we have the chance.”

Wilson said rededications of streets to match the current names are a missed opportunity.

“I have decidedly mixed feelings on the rededication concept,” said Wilson. “With the exception of Quantrill, I imagine you can come up with a rededication for pretty much every street on the list… but my initial reaction is rededication seems like squandering some of the efforts here.”

While North Breckinridge Place would be renamed for Harriet Jacobs  — one of the few streets in the city to use someone’s first and last name in the street — Forrest Street, Jordan Street and Early Street would all keep the names mostly or entirely intact, with the tribute in the name being rededicated. Forrest Street would be renamed to Forest Street, losing an R and its dedication to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

City Council member John Chapman said rededication offers a middle ground to build community support in what has been an occasionally divisive process.

“Rededication pulls the community to get support,” Chapman said. “The changes don’t totally wipe away the name, they mold that name to be something a lot different.”

Chapman said the pushback on changing every name honoring a Confederate leader would be significant, and taking rededication off the table would signal that the city isn’t interested in the community input. Rededication, Chapman noted, is also less of a hassle for residents of those streets.

Image via Google Maps

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