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The Blue & Gray Press | March 24, 2017

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Op Ed: Jefferson Davis highway should not change name

Op Ed: Jefferson Davis highway should not change name

By LYDIA EISENBERG

The city of Fredericksburg is an incredibly historic town. Established in 1728 by the General Assembly, the city has played key roles in multiple wars including the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It would almost be a crime to deny this town of its history. Changing the name of the Jefferson Davis Highway would be the start of a downward spiral of sugar coating the facts of this city; that Fredericksburg was and is a true southern town.

Although Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy as well as a slave owner, this issue needs to be put into perspective. Many other people of the time owned slaves. Mary Washington, for whom this university is named after owned a few slaves in her lifetime as well as her son George Washington. Where is the line to be drawn? If the Jefferson Davis Highway is to be renamed, by these standards the university should be renamed as well.

“Political sociology class focuses its efforts on renaming Jefferson Davis Highway”

Many argue that the road should be renamed because it represents the Confederacy and “with that representation comes the oppression of other ethnicities and divisiveness in our country”. This view contradicts itself in the fact that it suppresses the views of a certain ethnicity; of those who believed slavery to be morally right. Others argue that “Jefferson Davis does not represent the core values of the Fredericksburg and Mary Washington community.”

What are the said “core values” of Fredericksburg and Mary Washington? To deny a city’s history while forcing one close-minded opinion on the drivers on Jefferson Davis Highway. It is not up to the individual to decide who is right and who is wrong and what is in the boundary of “core values” and what is not.

Jefferson Davis may have been a slave owner and president of the Confederacy but at least he stood for something that he believed in, which is more to say than most people in history. Jefferson Davis Highway not only tells and reminds one of the history of this city but also reminds one to fight for what they believe to be right. People should be allowed to hear the whole truth about this city and make their own judgement of it rather than having it decided for them and hidden away in shame.

Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Jefferson Davis never lived or even visited Fredericksburg tho, he ain’t our history. And racism shouldn’t be a southern value we’re proud of, let’s be proud of cornbread or wraparound porches.

  2. White people getting mad

    “At least he fought for what he believed in” so did Hitler but you don’t see Germans honoring him for being proud of hating jews. Do you think slavery is an honorable thing to fight for? You must be confused

  3. Anonymous

    Lmfao if you’re going to write an article about how you think slavery was okay and we should continue to honor that belief today- at least make sure it’s a well written argument. This article was so poorly written and cringeworthy I barely finished reading it. You’re clearly a very confused individual.

  4. Anonymous

    “Changing the name of the Jefferson Davis Highway would be the start of a downward spiral of sugar coating the facts of this city”

    This project is not suggesting that every single memorial, sign, etc. be removed, moved, or changed in Fredericksburg. These historical monuments do have their place, and it is important to recognize this time in history.

    The reason why the focus is on Jefferson Davis Highway is because by looking at the context of how the highway was named by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the early 1900’s. It does not appear that this highway was named after Jefferson Davis in order to honor his leadership as the President of the Confederacy ( Davis was appointed, rather than elected to this position; he remained a supporter of state secession rather than unity; History.com states that his “contentious personality” led to conflict, rather than unity among him and those who he led). Rather, it appears that it was named in order to create a physical symbol, a symbol honoring Jefferson Davis’ advocacy that “. . . 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. – Jefferson Davis”

  5. Anonymous

    “This issue needs to be put into perspective. Many other people of the time owned slaves. Mary Washington, for whom this university is named after owned a few slaves in her lifetime as well as her son George Washington. Where is the line to be drawn?”

    “Jefferson Davis Highway not only tells and reminds one of the history of this city but also reminds one to fight for what they believe to be right. “

    It is true that we do honor many historical figures who were also slave owners – but, the difference is that with many of these historical figures, we are honoring and remembering their positive contributions. For example, many of the Founding Fathers did own slaves. However, we do not remember and celebrate them as men who supported the institution of slavery – when we honor them, we are honoring their accomplishments, for example, establishing the Constitution.

    On the other hand, it can be argued that when Jefferson Davis is honored and remembered, it is for his unwavering support of the institution of slavery, a stance which he held until the day he died. The fact that he held the position of leader of a war in defence of slavery, as well as his continued position as an advocate for the idea that African Americans were designed for slavery, is why he was honored/remembered. This is Jefferson’s legacy.

    Changing the name of the highway would not erase its history. If it were changed, people would be able to see that the road is an example of how we, as a society, can learn from arguably negative points of history in order to make positive change. Changing the name in order to honor a Fredericksburg or Virginia native (Davis never resided in Virginia) is one way in which we could remove an oppressive symbol, and in turn, continue to honor the historical aspects of Fredericksburg. History would not be erased, rather, an oppressive symbol would be changed in order to represent equality and inclusion.

  6. Anonymous

    So Lydia,

    When you say:
    “What are the said “core values” of Fredericksburg and Mary Washington? To deny a city’s history while forcing one close-minded opinion on the drivers on Jefferson Davis Highway. It is not up to the individual to decide who is right and who is wrong and what is in the boundary of “core values” and what is not.”

    Are you suggesting the values of white supremacy held by Davis could be values held by our University and the city of Fredericksburg? The University explicitly states: “The University of Mary Washington is one of Virginia’s outstanding public liberal arts universities, providing a superior education that inspires and enables our students to make positive changes in the world.”
    This project is exactly representative of UMW core values. This project is an attempt to make an albeit small, but positive change in the world.
    Additionally, this project does not aim to force any “close-minded opinion on the drivers on Jefferson Davis Highway. ” Consider this, African American drivers are currently forced to drive on a road dedicated to a man who enslaved their race and propagated white supremacy. And white supremacy is one hell of a close minded belief if you ask me.

  7. Article Summary

    Lydia Eisenberg doesn’t think white supremacy can be ruled out as right or wrong.

  8. Anonymous

    There are a lot of things I could touch on here. I’ll pick one – you say it’s not up to the individual to decide what’s right and wrong. I couldn’t disagree more.

    It’s up to every one of us to decide what type of society we want to live in, and I certainly don’t want to live in one that celebrates our history of white supremacy and slavery. Acknowledging and atoning for that history is our duty, and renaming a highway named after a traitor is a tiny part of that.

  9. You are an embarrassment to white people

    “This view contradicts itself in the fact that it suppresses the views of a certain ethnicity; of those who believed slavery to be morally right.”

    You realize you just said the ethnicity that believes slavery to be morally right (aka white people) are having their views suppressed. 1- Those views should be suppressed, they’re horrible. 2- Most white people do not hold these beliefs. 3- You’re making the rest of us look bad.

  10. Anonymous

    Jefferson Davis did visit Fredericksburg.

  11. Jefferson Davis is part of our history right or wrong.Every one has the right to their opinion about him.But maybe the Political Sociology class should study about the Red Guard movement in China in the 1960s.If they did they would find they are pretty much repeating that history

  12. Captbill

    First off ” Mary Washington” is not a part of the community and had long isolated itself. The average citizen in Frdeticksburg runs into drunken ” UMW” students and that’s all we really see. The Collegs contributions to the area are really nonexistent. ” UMW” is a guest in our community in every respect and should act as such.

    Jefferson Davis was in the City a number of times and addressed the troops from the step of the old bank. Did you know Jefferson Davis and his wife adopted an African American child? Did you know that Jefferson Davis help to ensure the African Americam Confederate troopers and or their wives got a pension for their service?

    What we are dealing with here is Marxist doctrine being pushed by a ” UMW” employee. Are we to assume that Marxist doctrine has replaced education ?

    The local here have asked only to left alone. If this persists we see if we can get your state funding cut.

  13. Rita Rhine

    Love how most of the comments are signed anonymous. As a matter of fact Jefferson Davis did visit Fredericksburg. If you think all things confederate should be banned because of slavery then you probably think that Washington and Jefferson need to go also. And the American flag also since it flew over the ships which brought slaves to these shores. The author of this article is right on with her facts and opinions. Slavery was but one issue of the war among others. It never was the only issue. Ms. Eisenberg is in no way condoning slavery.

  14. Anonymous

    Davis, a West Point Grad, War Hero of the war with Mexico, Secretary of War, Senator, he headed up the expansion of the U.S. capitol building and pushed for the formation of the Smithsonian. If you honor other great men for their good, there is much to study. The push to erase all history that doesnt fit the current anti confederate narrative is what is going on here.remove the name and Washington, Jefferson, and all the founders are next.They hate America.Southern names first..then the rest.

  15. Jennifer (BS in History)

    “We just want unite the common German language”, “We just want to unite the former German Countries” to me that is the same as “We just want to change this one name of a section of road”, or “We just want to move him to a safer spot”. You are erasing history you don’t like.

    Jefferson Davis did own slaves and so did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and many other founding fathers including some NORTH of the Mason Dixion.

    The Civim War was fought over preservation of the Union or if the states had the right to leave the Union. If it was truely over the issue of slavery then why did Lincoln WAIT until AFTER a Northern victory, 2 years into the War, to mention slavery at all?

    I highly recommend the movie “Lincoln” in particular a scene where he had people in the White House and he asked how they felt about getting rid of slavery and they were ok with it AS LONG AS it didn’t mean they could take their jobs. The couple was from up North. I also recommend the movie “12 years a slave” he was captured in DC the Nations capital. Also read the book “incidents in the life of a slave girl”. She mentions AFTER escaping from slavery that she was still a slave and a second class citizen up NORTH. That book was published in 1860.

    Please research and learn history before trashing people and history.

  16. Stephanie

    Judging people of the past by today’s standards is a very dangerous thing to do. If we start saying anything or anyone who had anything to do with slavery is not worthy of remembering or of honoring the good things for which they are remembered, then that is a lot of history to erase. Jefferson Davis was actually ahead of many of those around him in that he taught his slaves to read and allowed them to earn their freedom. But I choose to look at that he was an excellent Secretary of war, was a hero in the Mexican War, and believed States had the right to govern themselves. (When you really study him and many of the leaders of the south, they were very akin to libertarians. Their reason for secession was to get the federal government out of their business–of which one issue was slavery, yes.) To decry Davis as evil for this one flaw, which is only seen as a flaw by modern standards, is a crime. And for those who say a street should not be named after someone who never visited the town or city the street is in, can I ask if Martin Luther King Jr. visited all the thousands of towns and cities across the nation who give him a nod with a street name? I would never advocate the removing of his name even though he was not kind to women. I choose to admire the good MLK did–as I do Jefferson Davis–and refuse to support the erasure of our history no matter who the instigators are.

  17. Eddie Inman

    Jefferson Davis, like Robert E. Lee, was a truly honorable and noble man. A U.S. Senator and Secretary of War. It was the esteem of his peers which led to appointment and subsequent election as President of the Confederate States. There is no need at all of removing his name from highways because he does not fit into the righteous north myth of history. Any reading at all will show his strenuous efforts to avoid disunion and conflict. Even after numerous attempts and efforts by the U.S. government to associate Davis with the Lincoln assassination, as a war criminal, and with treason, the U.S. government could not bring a case against Davis and was forced to release him from prison without a trial. Fearing an acquittal would show to the world the wrongness of the war which the U.S. had waged. For those who maintain that Davis headed an effort solely devoted to the preservation of slavery, please read some history and discover that slavery could have been perpetuated without separation and war due to the U.S. Congress and to Abraham Lincoln —

    March 2, 1861
    No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
    36th Congress 2nd Session

    March 4, 1861
    I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution which amendment, however, I have not seen has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
    Abraham Lincoln – 1st inaugural speech

  18. Billy Bearden

    Jefferson Davis lived in Virginia, and therefore a resident of Virginia, thus has significant ties to Virginia.
    He was a US Senator from Mississippi. He was also US Secretary of War, and was in charge of Virginia troops.
    George Washington never set foot west of the Mississippi River, but has a whole state named in his honor.
    Both of these great men believed in secession, and fought to defend it.
    Both of these great men did own slaves.
    If you seek to change the Davis name, you must also demand the State of Washington and district of Columbia be renamed – or else be known as a hypocrite

  19. RetiredAFvet

    How evil it is to judge others who lived in 19th century America with 21st century social values!!

  20. Michael Enneking

    Leave Jefferson David Highway alone! The liberals that want this changed don’t even have the slightest clue about Davis and the God fearing man that he was. Davis even adopted a black child something unheard of during his time. Try taking some time to study and learn some truth about Davis before you attack the man’s reputation. Davis took and stand and fought to preserve our Constitution and freedom just as the original founding fathers did. If these people only knew the truth about Lincon and how he felt towards the black race they would realize who the real racist was!!!!!!!! Deo Vindice

  21. John Stones

    Jefferson Davis was an honourable man who took in and took care of all in his household. He, and the rest of the Confederacy, was not fighting for slavery but for states rights. There was a time when people had a higher allegiance to their states than to the federal government. This was the intent of the Founding Fathers. The reason the Confederacy fought is because they were invaded! The states that seceded just wanted to be left alone to follow the Constitution in the way that the Founders intended. Lincoln orchestrated the Civil War and was himself no saint! All one has to do is google and then read his first Inaugural Address. Slavery was a national sin and it has all been pinned on the South. Jefferson Davis was the kind of man that any honourable individual would seek out as a role model. Quit trying to destroy our history and see it – honestly – for what it is!

  22. Brett Moffatt

    The rush to rewrite history and commit presentism is a sorry comment on the failure of our education system. Slavery was legal in the past, and in some places (Africa) today. It has been a part of most civilizations in recorded history. The fact that we don’t accept it today, DOES NOT bear on the past. You cannot look at the past through the lens of present values is not higher education, it’s propaganda to fit someone’s political agenda. Racism was a term invented by Marxist to slander people they considered inferior, or expendable.

    Jefferson Davis was considered a devout and brilliant man, one of the great orators of his time, a man of great character and integrity, and a man deeply devoted to his people. He was loved by those who knew him, both white and black. It’s a shame that people with a radical political agenda can slander such a man without any knowledge of his life, except that he was President of the Confederate States of America. (I use that name instead of Confederacy because the United States was a confederacy) Yet Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and the vast majority of the North were perfectly satisfied with a United States where slavery was a permanent part. Why this duplicity, except to make the political statement that their view of the federal government, which was NOT the view of the Founding Fathers, fits more with the modern progressive agenda?

    In all this anti-Confederate hysteria, it is sad that supposed communities of higher education act more like German Nazis in the 1930’s, dictating what people can think or how they express themselves. I see no rush to honour African-American Confederates. I see no condemnation of Lincoln for his support of slavery. (of course, they probably don’t even teach that the North offered to make slavery permanent if the South would return and pay their taxes, which was the addiction of the North and the cause of war) This lying, and that is what it is, must stop, and people must respect other people’s rights and views, or we are in for serious troubles in our future. Hopefully, universities will reflect on their sins of rewriting history and using their positions to indoctrinate students with a radical political agenda, and return to the past where high standards and actual education are the ultimate goals. If not, prayer is the only thing which can save our country.

  23. Kelly Crocker

    The Jefferson Davis Highway system, The Dixie Highway system , and the Lincoln Highway system were all created in the early 20th century when the auto industry began to flourish. The auto makers needed roads for people to drive those vehicles on. Carl Fisher, the Chevrolet’s, Allison, the Ford family, and others helped establish these Highway Systems. These roads and autos helped the United States expand exponentially. 90 years ago, nobody seemed to mind that the Dixie Hwy began in the North!!! Dixie, Davis, and Lincoln, were NOT bad words! Erasists need to get over themselves.

  24. Quote: ” Jefferson Davis is honored and remembered, it is for his unwavering support of the institution of slavery, a stance which he held until the day he died.”‘

    No, he isn’t honored and remembered for that. No wonder this person is “Anonymous” — He is blatantly attributing his beliefs to others, and then condemning them for his beliefs. Not saying there is no room for criticism of Davis and the Confederacy, but the kind of tunnel vision exhibited by many commenters here betrays an unwillingness to see the whole picture because people well know the whole of reality is not the portrait of total evil they so desperately wish to believe.

    Jefferson Davis was also a U.S. Senator and hero of the Mexican War. His support of slavery was theoretical; his support of independence for the South is on record Before the war started, he wrote to his wife that slavery would not survive it, but it was also the only way to achieve independence from the Union, since the Union intended to prevent the South’s departure. He also sent an envoy to England to offer emancipation for slaves in exchange for recognition of the Confederacy by France and England. It came too late in the war to do any good, but it proves is support of slavery certainly did waver.

    Few historical personages would pass the kind of tunnel-vision test for “evil” that critics demand of Davis, the Confederacy, and Southerners past and present — certainly not any of those who came South to kill Southerners in 1861.

  25. Buddy Wilson

    One things for sure. If there had not been a black man in Africa who captured another black man then sold him into slavery there wouldn’t be any blacks in the U.S. The blacks here today should count on their blessings that they are not living in Africa a mud hut without a air conditioner unit wondering if they might be dinner for the next lion that caramel through the village.

  26. Anonymous

    Lmao at all the angry commenters who don’t even attend umw. I won’t comment on your willfully blind ignorance to the racism behind Jeff Davis. If you aren’t willing to listen to facts there’s no point in trying to convince you. Your views are a product of confederate brain washing.
    Fredericksburg would be nothing without umw, don’t kid yourselves. We provide jobs, keep your businesses alive, and bring so much money into the community it isn’t funny. Half of the tourism to Fredericksburg is people visiting the university. Like us or not, you can’t say we aren’t a valuable asset to Fredericksburg.

  27. Anonymous

    Buddy Wilson, are you seriously suggesting African Americans should be thankful their people were enslaved? And these confederate supporters and the city councilmen had the audacity to claim they have no connection with racism or racist beliefs. Ha!

  28. Anonymous

    Lydia, I hope you realize you’ve aligned yourself with the racists above.

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