Take a Stand to Rename Jefferson Davis and Lee Highways in Arlington, Va.

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When the author of this petition (an Arlington resident for 10 years) first visited Washington, D.C., as a 12-year-old, he was struck by the fact that two of the first exits one encounters when leaving the U.S. capital city are for Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway in Arlington, Virginia. These roads are named for people who fought the United States in the name of slavery and white supremacy.

Recent events, including Dylann Roof's racist massacre of 9 peaceful African American churchgoers and the Unite the Right rally culminating in Heather Heyer's death at the hands of a white supremacist, have shined the light on the shameful history of monuments--including highways--to Confederate leaders. Many of these, including Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway, are relics of a time of segregation and were meant to honor, not simply remember, these leaders. Their legacy and what they stood for are clear.

After a history of intentional decisions creating a county still segregated by race and class, Arlington in recent decades has rightfully gained a reputation as a progressive county.

The County Board has named two Arlingtonians to a committee studying changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway.

This is not enough.

Although Virginia's adoption of the Dillon Rule prohibits the County from unilaterally changing the names of these roads, the County can and should take a stand.

The Arlington County Board should affirm that people of all colors are welcome in this county and take a needed, small step to atone for the County's past.

We, the undersigned, urge the Arlington County Board to pass a resolution demanding the Virginia General Assembly to change the names of both Jefferson Davis and Lee Highways.

Future residents of Arlington County, and visitors to the National Capital Region, should not see the names of white supremacists and traitors like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee honored in the landscape of a proudly progressive county.



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