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story.lead_photo.caption A Confederate Boulevard sign at Roosevelt Road hangs near a sign pointing toward Springer Boulevard on Wednesday in Little Rock. City officials are expected to consider a petition today to rename Confederate Boulevard’s last few blocks to Springer Boulevard. ( Stephen B. Thornton)

The Little Rock Planning Commission unanimously recommended Thursday that the city Board of Directors approve changing the name of Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard.

Reader Vote Results

Should the name of Little Rock's Confederate Boulevard be changed?

Photo by Brandon Riddle
Anika Whitfield, petitioner for the name change from Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard in Little Rock, speaks to the Little Rock Planning Commission during its regular meeting Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.
Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
A map showing Confederate Boulevard.

Confederate Boulevard is a portion of a street and stretches a few blocks. Most of the roadway’s name was changed to Springer Boulevard in 1974 in honor of the Rev. Horace Springer, one of the first black property owners in the Granite Mountain area to which the road leads.

City records show that the portion that remains Confederate Boulevard was a compromise for business owners who didn’t want to change their addresses. Some of the same businesses objected to changing the name this time, saying it would cost them money to change their addresses on accounts and advertisements.

The two businesses that have been most vocal about their opposition to the name change — Burger House LLC and H.F. Scruggs Inc. — didn’t have representatives at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, where the request was approved in a 10-0 vote.

The matter will now go to the city board for final approval. Several board members already have indicated their support.

The name-change request came from community activist Anika Whitfield and Gloria Springer, granddaughter of Horace Springer.

Gloria Springer said she and other Granite Mountain residents have talked for years about getting the last remaining portion of Confederate Boulevard renamed, but that the Charleston, S.C., church shootings in June that left nine black church members dead inspired her, with Whitfield, to restart the effort.

Dylann Roof, the white suspect in the South Carolina shootings, is said to have indicated that the slayings were racially motivated. The deaths sparked a nationwide conversation about the use and meaning of the Confederate flag and name. It prompted the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds.

Four people in addition to Whitfield and Springer spoke in support of the Little Rock street name change at Thursday’s meeting, and two spoke against it.

Jay Clark spoke, passionately at times, against the change. He said the Southern states’ secession from the United States should be honored and that the Confederate soldiers were good men who fought with honor, dignity, courage and tenacity.

“I find it horribly disgusting that anybody would want to sully the good names of these people … they are true heroes,” Clark said.

He said that after the South Carolina killings, when an image of Roof holding a Confederate flag surfaced, “leftists, blacks and politicians immediately started attacking the symbols of the Southern culture.”

Planning Commissioner Craig Berry referred to Clark’s statement before the vote.

The “Southern culture stands larger than the Confederate symbol and still lives. It has not a thing to do with the Confederacy chapter, which is only three years in history and was a lost cause,” Berry said. The Civil War was fought from April 1861 to April 1865.

“It’s time for this to take place,” he added, referring to the street name change.

People who spoke in support of the renaming included state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who said the nation has advanced since the split of the country and that the street name change goes a long way toward the advancement of Little Rock.

It required 50 percent of property owners along Confederate Boulevard to sign a petition to get the name-change request before the Planning Commission. Of the 22 addresses on the street, 11 signatures were submitted.

The street runs to the Little Rock National Cemetery, where 640 Confederate soldiers are buried. Nearly 1,500 Union soldiers’ remains also are interred there.

Whitfield pointed out in her statement to the commission that no one in support of the name change spoke ill of Confederate soldiers.

Acadia Roher, who spoke in support of the change, said the city should be lifting up stories and people who fought racial oppression and that the story of the Confederacy belongs in museums and history books.

“This year, masses of people across the country have risen up to say we want a different kind of reality — one of equity and justice,” she said.

Print Headline: Drop ‘Confederate,’ LR planners advise

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Archived Comments

  • cliffcarson
    September 25, 2015 at 7:24 a.m.

    History doesn't change. People can remove every vestige of historical fact with the exception of the very historical fact itself. But the true history is unchangeable by anyone or anything. I always thought the street was named honoring the soldiers lying in eternity in that Graveyard, both Union and Confederate.

    To become a truly integrated America we need to put an end to Political Correctness and act like grown up moral people.

    Changing the name of Confederate Boulevard in this environment is a move promoted by racial tyranny pure and simple.

  • LETSBEREALISTIC
    September 25, 2015 at 7:50 a.m.

    Tell these liberal bigots to just move on. History is history and you cannot change that, unless your a liberal liar that wants to remake the World into a fantasy land that is not real just all hype.

  • ARMNAR
    September 25, 2015 at 8:04 a.m.

    Good move. Plus, it angers the bigots, so that's a bonus.

  • LR1955
    September 25, 2015 at 9:13 a.m.

    Since I don't go into that part of town I don't give a rats @$$.
    But I am curious: only 50% required, why not a majority? Did the signature gathers ask everyone on Confederate Blvd or stop at 50%?

  • RobertBolt
    September 25, 2015 at 9:22 a.m.

    History is a record of past events best affirmed in museums, taught in schools, and remembered by families. Irretrievably in the past, the facts of history cannot be changed. Changing the name of a street, lowering a flag, or removing a monument is not changing history, but such actions do reflect growing awareness that some persons and events do or do not merit public honors.

    Everyone retains the ability to honor whatever persons and events they wish to recognize in their private lives, but public commemorations should be appropropriate for all. As a descendant of Union soldiers, I see no respect to the Federal troops in naming the street leading up to the cemetery in honor of those who fought to kill them in order to destroy the Union. For that purpose, Veteran Blvd would have been a more fitting name.

    Similarly, no descendant of slaves should be expected to agree to honor those who fought to keep their ancestors as property. Ironically, the word "bigot" gets thrown around a great deal by those who argue on behalf of the side that fought for slavery - the very apotheosis of bigotry. Those who take this cheap shot should recognize what others know: name-calling typically indicates one has already lost the argument on merit and does not know how to express frustration more effectively.

  • Jackabbott
    September 25, 2015 at 9:46 a.m.

    This is a good example of the mentality that drives groups like ISIS in the Middle East to "erase" history. Silly and ignorant people who have nothing else to do and this is a way to feel "good" and big. Unable to accomplish anything worthwhile on their own, they look for cosmetic change to draw attention and show off. How sad.
    As far as the business owners( I guess since they do pay taxes they have no say in the mater). You have to remember you are in an anti-business city and one that is not growing. It's model is Detroit or Baltimore not any growing city in China or Mexico.

  • RobertBolt
    September 25, 2015 at 10:02 a.m.

    To draw parallels between a decision by city officials to change the name of a street with the rampant murder and mayhem of a terrorist militia is a breathtaking overreach, especially when you correctly describe the name change as merely cosmetic. I assure you ISIS' atrocities are not cosmetic, and to find similarities between ISIS' horrors and the "cosmetic" actions of the city planners is like calling Tweety Bird Hitler for slurring Sylvester as a "Bad Ole Puddy Tat."

  • RBBrittain
    September 25, 2015 at 10:05 a.m.

    The map is STILL wrong: (a) The north end of Confederate is at either 21st & Barber (where the renaming to Springer will begin) *or* the bend from Barber to Confederate just south of 21st, *NOT* at 26th; the National Cemetery's official address is 2523 Confederate, *north* of 26th. (As I pointed out before, the old Confederate Cemetery is now a section of the National Cemetery which completely surrounds it.) (b) It improperly includes the city-owned Oakland Cemetery as part of the National Cemetery; the boundary between the two is near the bend from Barber to Confederate. (It's also sometimes called "Oakland Fraternal Cemetery", but that merely recognizes that Oakland staff also operates the Fraternal Cemetery just to the west, historically run by black fraternal groups like Mosaic Templars but now also city-owned like Oakland.)
    .
    Also, the city needs to do further research to determine exactly how far SOUTH it was renamed to Springer in 1974. It's always been my understanding that the Springer name did *NOT* run to the city limits (as the Planning Commission's agenda item claims), but ended at some street in Granite Mountain; Highway 365 beyond that to the city limits, IIRC near the old Confederate Veterans Home, is *STILL* Confederate Boulevard (and would *NOT* be renamed in this proposal). If so, it will take *ANOTHER* petition from Granite Mountain-area landowners (3M, maybe?) to completely take Confederate off the map.

  • dumblikeme
    September 25, 2015 at 10:28 a.m.

    So would the opponents of this think it ok to still have an Adolf Hitler street in Germany, or elsewhere for that matter? Adolf made some history too, and he was essentially to Jews what the Confederacy was to black people.

  • Packman
    September 25, 2015 at 11:03 a.m.

    Hey Acadia Roher - Since it was Democrats that opposed the Civil Rights Act and founded the KKK, shouldn't we also do away with "Democrat Boulevard" street names found throughout America? Or are you, Ms. Roher, only offended when it's politically correct?

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