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.