Council Receives Update on Planning Board’s Confederate Street-Renaming Project

On June 15, the Montgomery County Council sent a letter to local leaders asking the county to identify all county-owned streets and public facilities that are currently named after Confederate soldiers “or those who otherwise do not reflect Montgomery County values.”

The letter calls for a public process to rename the streets and public facilities following the review. It was spearheaded by Councilmember Andrew Friedson and addressed to County Executive Marc Elrich and County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson.

There is some complexity in figuring out the significance of names, Anderson said during an update to the council on Tuesday. Many former Confederates had common names that non-Confederates also had. For example, he said, there are a couple of streets or facilities named after prominent Confederates who share a last name with prominent African American families living in the same neighborhood.

“It’s very difficult to untangle: was it named after the Confederates or the African Americans or none of the above? So, there’s some difficult factual work that needs to be done in untangling the historical record,” Anderson said.

Value judgments about what warrants renaming also need to be made. Anderson offered another example: Dickerson, an unincorporated community near Poolesville, and the name of two parks (Dickerson Conservation Park and Dickerson Park). Anderson said the Dickerson family included at least one slave owner.

“It raises some questions about: do you rename the park but not the unincorporated area, or both, or neither?” Anderson said. He said the planning board will need to work through these questions with the council. In Jan. 2021, the council will receive a briefing on the renaming project from the planning board.

The board will propose what “obviously should be changed,” Anderson said. It will provide additional categories of people and places that do not have an obvious answer and that warrant further research. The board may need more funding if more research is needed, as well as funding for logistics like signage.

At least four streets in Potomac are named after Confederates or Confederate landmarks, Friedson said in an email to MyMCMedia in June. The streets are Jubal Early Court, Jeb Stuart Road, Jeb Stuart Court and White’s Ford Road. Friedson said as Montgomery County works to dismantle structural and institutional racism, it needs to also target symbols that normalize racism.

“The Confederacy fought to protect the institution of slavery and committed treason against the United States. Public streets and facilities honoring Confederate figures simply have no place in Montgomery County.”

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