Atlanta Will Remove Confederate Names From City Streets

ATLANTA (CN) — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Wednesday signed a bill renaming three city thoroughfares whose former monikers evoked the Confederacy.

Confederate Avenue will be renamed United Avenue, East Confederate Avenue will become United Avenue S.E., and Confederate Court will become Trestletree Court.

The new names were chosen by neighborhood residents.

The new street signs will go up after Thanksgiving but a ceremony commemorating the change will not take place until Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Bottoms signed the bill during a small, private ceremony on Wednesday with Carla Smith, a City Council member who sponsored the legislation, by her side. The City Council unanimously approved the change on October 1.

A small group of local residents who worked to get the measure in front of the City Council were also in attendance.

“For our community to truly be One Atlanta, we must write a new  chapter in our own history,” Bottoms said in a statement. “The imagery and symbolism of these names and monuments represent systematic injustice, persecution and cruelty. That is not who we are as a city.”

Last fall, former mayor Kasim Reed charged an 11-member advisory committee with evaluating Confederate iconography in Atlanta. The committee issued 40-page report of recommendations, including a recommendation to change the street names.

The decision to rename the streets comes as local leaders across the South determine how they will deal with Confederate memorials, monuments and other iconography.

In September, Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio, Texas changed its name to Legacy of Educational Excellence High School. In June, J.E.B. Stuart Elementary school in Richmond, Virginia changed its name to Barack Obama Elementary School.

Residents have reportedly complained about Atlanta’s Confederate Avenue for years, but efforts to rename the street were renewed after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.

Neighbors launched an online petition which gathered over 10,000 signatures in favor of renaming the streets.

“Symbols are meaningful,” organizer Joe Thomas wrote on the petition’s webpage. “And allowing Confederate flags, statues, and street names serves only to perpetuate the fallacy that the hate they represent deserves equal time and attention from our society.”

“Atlanta must stand up and declare that neo-Confederates, Nazis, white nationalists, and their allies are not welcome here, and neither are their symbols,” Thomas wrote.

During a public listening session held in September, residents of the affected neighborhoods expressed their views on the proposed change. A majority of commenters were in favor of the renaming proposal, saying that the street names reflected a racist past.

Opponents claimed that any change to the street names would merely be a politically correct attempt to erase part of Atlanta’s history.

“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,” David Moreland, a commenter at the public session, said. Moreland’s comments were reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The advisory committee recommended that the city rename more than 30 streets.

But for now, streets like Lee Street (named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee) and Forrest Street (named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate Army general and the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan), will keep their names.

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