New street names pave over history

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Street sign of the times. (AJC Photo by Becca Godwin)

It’s not easy running one of the biggest cities in the U.S.

Or is it?

Atlanta City Council has solved the issues that plague most big cities.

  • Atlanta has all the police officers promised and people feel safe in all areas of town.
  • Residents are billed properly for the excellent city services they joyfully receive.
  • The highly-profitable Streetcar project has turned downtown Atlanta into a cultural Mecca.
  • Government corruption is non-existent.

Yet, one issue remains before Atlantans can claim they live in the greatest city of Earth.

We’ve got to rename dozens of streets!

As you know, many are upset that statues honoring those who fought for slavery not only exist but are used to decorate the lawns of local courthouses where the civil rights of minorities were once routinely repressed. Monuments to revisionist history should be removed.

I can also see modifying the name of streets which honor Confederate leaders. Atlanta previously changed Forrest Avenue to Ralph McGill Boulevard, but how many people knew the street was named for Confederate Army general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest? Probably the same amount that know McGill was an Atlanta Constitution publisher who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for anti-segregation editorials.

Renaming Forrest Avenue was a good idea, but taking an “R” off the street signs would have been a more economically efficient solution.

How did we get here?

Following fatal racial violence at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., thousands of Atlanta residents signed petitions to remove statues and rename Confederate-themed streets. Mayor Kasim Reed appointed an advisory committee that recently discussed some of its recommendations. Their full report will soon be submitted to Reed and City Council.

If the renaming of streets is approved, residents living or doing business on those streets will be contacted and 75 percent of them have to agree before signs are changed, according to Atlanta city code.

Seventy-five percent is a high bar. That ordinance may be quickly revised.

Votes shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Wednesday, I was downing a massive plate of food at a meat-and-three in Avondale Estates and discussing this topic with random strangers when an elderly black gentleman interjected. He said he’d lived in Atlanta for 65 years and didn’t want any streets renamed. I asked him for his reasoning and he said it wouldn’t change history, and sometimes it’s good to not forget painful parts of the past. Then he said he might not be able to find his way home if all the street signs changed overnight and we shared a good laugh over sweet teas.

He has a point. I don’t live on Confederate Avenue, but if I’d been there for decades and someone suggested renaming it just before Christmas gifts start hitting the mail I’d vote against it too.

Will dozens of Atlanta streets be renamed? Will the “Lost Cause” lion in Oakland Cemetery finally succumb to his sadness? Will we ever run out of things that offend us?

Time will tell, but it pays to be ready.

Here are some new street names I’m sure the renaming committee has already penciled in:

  • Peachtree Street Northsouthwest
  • Considerate Avenue
  • Prince Kasim Parkway
  • Bill Torpy Boulevard
  • Political Correctness Circle
  • Streetcar Named Bankruptcy Row
  • Busted Waterpipe Place
  • Franklin Boutonniere Terrace
  • Crooked Campbell Court
  • Falcons Losing Way
  • Norwood Nogood Lane
  • Vote Bottoms on Dec. 5 Street

Related: 1903 Atlanta Constitution article says renaming of streets has led to confusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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