By The BLUE AND GRAY PRESS EDITORIAL BOARD
Jefferson Davis Highway runs through the city of Fredericksburg as part of Route 1 and bears the name of the president of the Confederacy. While the cities of Arlington and Alexandria have renamed the road to Richmond Highway, Fredericksburg has yet to make any changes. The city of Fredericksburg should remove Davis’ name from the highway because due to his racist legacy and lack of connection to the area.
As president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, Jefferson Davis was not only an outspoken defender of slavery, but he also advocated increasing and extending the practice of slavery, feeling it would benefit the country economically. Davis operated a plantation and owned as many as 113 slaves.
Construction began on Jefferson Davis Highway in 1913, which initially stretched from Arlington to San Diego. It was sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
In 2016, students in Dr. Eric Bonds’ political sociology class at UMW worked on a project to rename the highway. They went to city council meetings lobbying for the change, but ultimately their motion failed. They faced backlash from the local Sons of the Confederacy chapter, as well as community members who were concerned that changing the name would hurt tourism.
The name of Jefferson Davis Highway only serves to memorialize one of the darkest times in American history by celebrating a man who both justified and promoted slavery. In addition, Davis was not from Virginia and has no connections to Virginia or the Fredericksburg area. While it is important to remember the Civil War, slavery and the Confederacy as a part of American history, there is no justification for commemorating the Confederacy.
Davis 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.”
This man should not be placed on a pedestal, and people of color should not have to travel on a road named after a prominent racist.
The city of Fredericksburg should follow the example set by the cities of Arlington and Alexandria and rename Jefferson Davis Highway.
This staff editorial was led by Ginny Bixby.