Replace Confederate Street Names in Lake Meade, PA

Replace Confederate Street Names in Lake Meade, PA

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Jack Edmondson started this petition to The Lake Meade Property Owners Association

On July 3rd, 1863, Union forces defeated the Army of Northern Virginia in Gettysburg, PA. About a century later, the planned community of Lake Meade, Pennsylvania, was established between Latimore and Reading Township in Adams County, only miles away from the site of this battle. In light of this, the street names in our community (as well as those in nearby Lake Heritage) were named after prominent Civil War Era figures. Some 50 years later, in light of the recent protests after the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, many of us in the community might have thought about our street names more critically for the first time. It is time to recognize that many of our street names are a stain on our community and are a painful symbol of a time of White Supremacy to Black Americans.

In Lake Meade, the number of streets named after Confederate soldiers or politicians is roughly equal to the number of Union soldiers and politicians. Presently, we don't know exactly why this is so: perhaps it was merely to symbolically reflect two similar armies clashing nearby in a fateful battle. Perhaps it was somewhat inspired by "Lost Cause" pseudo-history. While we may not know that, we do some facts about these people and how it is viewed in the present: many of the people whose names are emblazoned on our streets and coves were ardent white supremacists. Our streets include Forrest Drive, Lee Cove, Davis Drive, among others. Nathan Bedford Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (yes, that's right, the LMPOA sits at the corner of a street named for the first leader of the KKK). Robert E. Lee is revered by neo-confederates and lost cause ideologues. Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy. Many others, too, were officers for the C.S.A., and were unquestionably motivated by White Supremacy.

While there are some Confederate figures, like James Longstreet, who became known as "reformed rebels" after the war for their changing views and gradual disavowing of the overt white supremacy of the Confederacy, a healthy majority of the people on our street signs and cove names who were Confederates do not fall into this category. Our street signs and cove names do matter. They project to the outside world what kind of community we are. By continuing to use these street names, we are, at best, ignoring the serious, harmful effects of eulogizing these figures in our neighborhood, pretending that the damage they caused still does not matter today, overlooking the serious wrongs they did. At worst, it may seem as if we reject the acknowledgment of these figures' grave racism, or even unintentionally endorse it.

Many people may perceive this as "erasing history," which is ironic, as the opposite is actually true. By continuing to use their names on our streets, we are ignoring the REAL history of their legacy: a history of racism and white supremacy fighting for an immoral cause. Instead, by continuing the use of their names, we -- intentionally or unintentionally -- idealize their legacy to that of an equivalence with those fighting for the Union. Symbols matter. Black Americans especially have pointed out this fact. In many places, the South especially, symbols like statues, street names, school names, and more, have reinforced a false history to some while painfully reminding Black Americans of Jim Crow, slavery, segregation, and White Supremacy that they have had to suffer through. We, as a community, need to recognize what Black America is telling us. This is not a partisan issue. People on both sides of the aisle have come to call for this kind of change: Mitt Romney, Mike Braun, Joe Biden, Bob Casey, even Fox News hosts like Steve Hilton and CNN hosts like Don Lemon agree.

We call on the Board of the Lake Meade Property Owners Association ("LMPOA"), as current and former residents and members, to rename the streets and coves named after Confederates. We suggest that the LMPOA work with and reach out to educated historians, such as professors at Gettysburg College or historians at the Gettysburg Battlefield, to get a comprehensive understanding of whom our roads are named for and possible replacement names. New names for the streets can and should be non-Confederates from the Civil War era, such as Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass, lesser-known Union soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, among many other possibilities. The LMPOA should construct and enact a transparent process that allows for member input on new street names while changing the ones that need to be changed. If possible, the LMPOA should prioritize input from residents who live on streets with Confederate names during the renaming process.

No doubt there will be some costs associated with this, and some headaches for Lake Meade residents to change their address. But these costs are not an excuse for inaction. We could point out that the continued use of these street names no doubt hurts property values (as it reduces interest and demand for living here, and will only continue to do so in the future), but the moral imperative should weigh far more on the hearts of the LMPOA. Let's leave Confederate recognition to the battlefield and the history museum. It's time to change these names and commit to new ones that don't help -- directly or indirectly -- keep up reminders of White Supremacy, Jim Crow, and segregation.

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