At a board meeting on Saturday, the Arlington County board of directors voted unanimously to rename Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard, named after abolitionist John Mercer Langston.
Arlington County officials voted unanimously on Saturday to rename Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard, named after abolitionist John Mercer Langston.
Langston was also the first Dean of Howard University Law School. The highway is currently named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The Lee Highway name change comes after the Lee Highway Alliance struggled to choose a name that better reflects Arlington County’s values, promotes fairness and is more welcoming to all, according to the group.
Alliance member Wilma Jones Kilgo spoke out in favor of renaming the road, noting that Lee owned slaves and was a member of the Confederates.
“So we think it is fair that a man who was an abolitionist who fought for equality be recognized with this honor,” Kilgo said.
Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey also spoke in favor of the name change.
“In all respects and in all respects, John Mercer Langston is more than worthy of having the honor of a public place in Arlington – a street – named after him,” Dorsey said.
Despite the overall support the name change received, there was some opposition.
Arlington County resident Bernard Berne said Robert E. Lee’s story was tarnished and he called the name change racist.
“He is a very important man who is completely denigrated by this,” he said.
Berne said Lee spoke out against slavery after the war and renaming the highway would backfire.
“Its whole story is twisted, Lee was against slavery,” Berne said.
Dorsey made sure to explain why the freeway was called Lee Highway to begin with, saying he didn’t care that people wanted to debate whether Lee was a good man or not.
“It doesn’t really matter. The point is that in 1922 when the road was called the Lee Highway, as Mrs Jones-Kilgo mentioned, it was not done with a clue as to whether Robert E. Lee was good or not. That’s because it would really sink the throat in those people who were on the unsuccessful side of the union, keeping it together and ending slavery, ”Dorsey said.
Costs for the new signage are estimated at $ 300,000 and are subject to final design and determination by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
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