The Little Rock Board of Directors will decide Tuesday on whether to change the name of Confederate Boulevard, a proposal that has drawn some opposition despite being approved by the majority of residents on the stretch of road that bears the name.
Five of the 10 members of the board have expressed their support of the name change: Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson, Ward 3 City Director Kathy Webb, Ward 5 City Director and Vice Mayor Lance Hines, Ward 6 City Director Doris Wright, and City Director at-large Gene Fortson.
Ward 4 City Director Brad Cazort said he's undecided but he is leaning toward supporting the name change because more than 50 percent of property owners on the street signed a petition asking for it.
City Director at-large Joan Adcock is the only board member so far to say she is opposed to doing away with Confederate Boulevard. The three other board members -- Ward 1 City Director Erma Hendrix, Ward 7 City Director B.J. Wyrick and City Director at-large Dean Kumpuris -- have yet to publicly take a stance and didn't return phone messages from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette seeking comment.
It will take six votes to pass the ordinance to change Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard. Most of what was formerly Confederate Boulevard was changed to Springer in 1974. A few blocks were left with the "Confederate" name after a protest by business owners who didn't want to change their addresses on letterhead and business cards.
An effort to change the remaining portion of the street resurfaced after a June 17 shooting in Charleston, S.C., in which Dylann Roof, a white man, is alleged to have killed nine black churchgoers out of racial bias. Roof had photos of himself with a Confederate battle flag on a social media site.
Gloria Springer, the granddaughter of the Rev. Horace Springer, for whom Springer Boulevard was named, and community activist Anika Whitfield led the most recent petition effort to change the name of Confederate Boulevard. In previous statements about their request they have said the name invokes hate.
But Adcock said she thinks changing the name would be an attempt to erase history.
"Little Rock has so much history that we recognize," she said. "I don't see how we can pick and choose which history we recognize and which history we just want to erase in the city. I think we have to learn from history."
A few residents have written emails to the Board of Directors agreeing with Adcock.
Kay Tatum, who said she is a historian by hobby of the colonial wars through the Civil War, sent in the most detailed email of opposition.
She noted that 11 black men in Little Rock indicated on the 1890 census that they served in the Confederate States Army. Changing the name of the road would be "a slap in the face and disgrace" to the 65,000 black men who were members of the Confederacy, she said.
It is believed that Confederate Boulevard got its name because it led from the Confederate Cemetery, now part of the National Cemetery, to the former Confederate Veterans Home.
Tatum told city directors of Dan Winsett, a black man who lived at the Confederate Veterans Home for decades and died there in May 1936.
"The soldiers that Confederate Boulevard represent were poor farmers, laborers, merchants and the common man: black, white, Christian and Jew. Fighting not for the rich, but states' rights," Tatum said, adding that just 3 percent of Arkansas' population reported they were slave owners in the 1860 census.
Changing the name of Confederate Boulevard would be the same as knocking over the tombstones of the 1,797 graves of soldiers buried in the Confederate Cemetery, she said.
To Whitfield, changing the name of Confederate Boulevard wouldn't be erasing history. History belongs in museums and schoolbooks, she said.
"The Civil War was meant to divide the U.S. Anything that is divisional, has a racist tone, promotes hate, promotes unjustifiable murders of innocent adults and children, it certainly is one we need to dispel, we need to erase, we need to eradicate from a living history. We need to recognize it as the ill it was in historical perspective and move forward to try to prevent any other ills of that nature," she previously told the Democrat-Gazette.
Hines said he will vote to change the name of Confederate Boulevard because he respects the process residents went through to request the change.
It required 50 percent of property owners to sign a petition to get the name-change request before the city Planning Commission, which voted 10-0 in September in favor of the change. Of the 22 addresses on the street, 11 signatures were submitted.
No property owners with a Confederate Boulevard address showed up to the Planning Commission meeting to speak in opposition to the change, though some businesses had previously expressed disagreement with it, citing the cost of changing documents with their addresses on them.
"I tend to say I lean toward approving the change because that's what residents on that street have asked for," Cazort said of his indecision on the matter. "But, in the past I think almost every time we've had a name change, there was pretty much universal support of everybody on the street. In this case we don't have universal support, so that is kind of where my thoughts are."
The board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the second-floor boardroom at City Hall, 500 W. Markham St.
Metro on 10/18/2015
Print Headline: Decision on street name due