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The Blue & Gray Press | October 22, 2017

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Political sociology class focuses its’ efforts on renaming Jefferson Davis Highway

Political sociology class focuses its’ efforts on renaming Jefferson Davis Highway

By ANAHI VIDOVICH

University of Mary Washington students are all familiar with Jefferson Davis Highway, the road that leads to campus, Mary Washington Hospital and even Carl’s. Students walk over it to get to Giant, Eagle Landing and Home Team Grill but many students do not know the origin of its name. Students in the Political Sociology Class want to change that.

Senior Brittany Greene, a student from the class, said that she and her classmates are trying to accomplish changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway.

“The ultimate goal of our class project is to get the City Council of Fredericksburg’s approval to rename the Jefferson Davis Highway in the Fredericksburg area,” Greene said. “We are doing this project to show the public that we care about what our community represents, Jefferson Davis was a Confederate leader who owned approximately 100 slaves, why should we honor a leader who stood for inequality and the superiority of one race over another?”

Jefferson Davis was the owner of at least 113 slaves in his lifetime and was the president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865, and an embodiment of the values of the planter class. The United Daughters of the Confederacy decided to honor his memory by naming the highway after him.

Greene, quoting Jefferson Davis, asks, do we as a community want to choose to honor a man who once said, “We recognize the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s Laws, in nature tell us to recognize him – our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude. You cannot transform the negro into anything one tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.” Greene said that this issue hit home for her.

“As an African-American female student, I hold this project close to heart,” Greene said. “To me, it is more than just renaming a highway, it is a matter of social justice for all groups.” Greene’s classmate, sophomore Ashton Ledbetter majoring in sociology, gave his account of his own perspective on the issue.

“Too often I feel as if there is nothing I can do as a student when it comes to bigger issues,” Ledbetter said. “This project could possibly empower younger people on campus and the city of Fredericksburg to remind them that our voice matters; we have the power to make a difference.” Senior Kyra Ketch, of the same class said that groundwork needs to be made before the name is changed.

“We’re starting with outreach,” Ketch said. “We’ve created social media platforms for people to learn about how to get involved with our project and we’re in the process of writing a letter to City Council regarding our concerns with Route 1’s current name.”

The group also plans to attend City Council’s next meeting on Oct. 11 to start a conversation among Fredericksburg officials.

For students who wish to get involved, Greene suggests showing support by “attending City Council meetings with our class, spreading the word amongst the campus and Fredericksburg community to help promote our mission by word of mouth and our Facebook page, and signing a petition that we plan to create in the near future. The more support we have from UMW, the more likely we are to make a change.”

The class is committed to making a lasting difference in their community. Ledbetter gave his own views on this project.

“This Highway name should be changed because Jefferson Davis represented the confederacy, with that representation comes oppression of other ethnicities and divisiveness in our country,” Ledbetter said. “Jefferson Davis does not represent the core values of the Fredericksburg and Mary Washington community.”

To find the group’s Facebook page search @RT1Fredericksburg in your Facebook search bar.

Comments

  1. Campus Conservative

    We shouldn’t erase history though, he was an important political figure.

  2. Anon

    It’s not erasing history, it’s just choosing not to honor racism

  3. Anonymous

    I’m sorry but I see your point that it’s wrong to own people but he’s an important historical figure. SO since he owned slaves he shouldn’t be remembered? What about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin? ALL owned slaves. So should we name states, cities, monuments, highways, and colleges/schools because of this as well?

  4. Anonymous

    He wasn’t an important political figure though, he didn’t even want to be the president of the confederacy, and he isn’t remembered for anything other than his defense of slavery. Yes other political figures like those listed above were slave owners, but an argument can be made that they have other qualities we remember them for, not their racism. Jefferson Davis on the other hand is only remembered for his racism. Additionally, the figures listed above had the goal of uniting the nation, while Davis was trying to rip it apart, honoring his name is a disservice to our country.

  5. Anonymous

    I’m sorry but I feel like you all chose to go to school in the wrong city. This area is known for civil war history with the Confederacy. While I see why you all would think this is racist, I don’t believe it is actually concerning racism. Yes he was part of the Confederacy and yes he was fighting to keep slavery, but he was a leader with a major role in our history. Whether it’s for the side you agree with or not, Jefferson Davis is still a big name especially in this area so rich in civil war history. You’re starting here with changing the name of a highway, which is such a small thing. If something this small is bothering you are you going to go change and get rid of all of the other pieces of history that lie here in the surrounding area?

  6. Political Soc Student

    Yes we’re starting small, because that’s the only way to actually make progress. Change is gradual, especially when opinions and beliefs are as deep rooted as racism and confederate pride. We are starting a conversation with this project, one that needs to be had in Fredericksburg. One small step is better than no step at all towards racial equality.

    I would like to disagree with your point “I don’t believe it is actually concerning racism. Yes he was part of the Confederacy and yes he was fighting to keep slavery, but he was a leader with a major role in our history.” Jefferson Davis himself unequivocally stated in 1861 that the cause of his state’s secession was that “she had heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.” This is about racism because Davis’s motive for leading the confederacy was to prevent the equality of the races. Choosing to memorialize him is choosing to value his racist beliefs.

    He was a major player in history, but his part in history is one we should read about in textbooks and see in museums, not one we should continuously honor and idolize in our day to day lives.

  7. Anonymous

    Blue and Gray Press, why wasn’t this story along with a better picture on the front page? It was much more interesting than the one you chose to feature.

  8. No wonder no one reads this paper

    You need to make controversial stories like this your Top Feature. I wonder why editors found this less worthy of being a top feature than a story about balconies?

  9. Anonymous

    I agree with the last two commenters. Editors, you messed up here. You had the opportunity to draw a lot of attention to the newspaper with this story

  10. clownsightings

    Rename it to Streety McStreetface

  11. The Blue & Gray Press

    We appreciate the feedback. While this article was not the top feature online, it was however on the front page of our print version. Please continue sending constructive criticism. If you have questions or feedback for us, please email blueandgray.press@gmail.com.

  12. You want to change the name of a highway because Jefferson Davis owned slaves? Well why are you not wanting to change the name of your school, Mary Washington was part of a slave owning family, George Washington owned 300 slaves. Seriously this politically correct movement is such a joke, learn factual history, not politically correct history.

  13. Anonymous

    Hi Frank,

    We recognize that many other historical figures owned slaves in that time period. However, the difference lies in what these figures are remembered for. The Washington family is remembered for more admirable contributions to our nations history, while Jefferson Davis is remembered for his avid defense of slavery. We are not attempting to erase history, as we still believe Jefferson Davis should be learned about in textbooks and museums. We simply feel that honoring his name and legacy of white supremacy through his memorialization on Route One is inappropriate.