A statue of a Confederate soldier in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo: AP Photo/Linda Spillers)
Since 1963, some of Alexandria, Virginia's streets have faced an historic restriction: every north-south street had to bear the name of a Confederate general, "insofar as possible." But as AP reports, that may change this year after city councillor Justin Wilson introduced legislation yesterday to do away with the law.
The bill would also scrap a requirement that east-west streets in Alexandria be named after people or places important to American history. According to the community news website Old Town Alexandria Patch, both requirements stem back to the 1950s, when the city was still expanding and at times flew a Confederate flag over city hall.
Wilson admits that the bill will have little immediate effect on Alexandria, which sits just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. He doesn't intend to propose changes to any current street names, some of which commemorate figures like Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who before the Civil War wrote a decision that denied citizenship and constitutional protections to black Americans.
The purpose of his bill, Wilson told AP, is mostly symbolic: he believes it is best to get rid of a requirement that could be taken as glorifying the Confederacy. Cynthia Dinkins, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, which operates the Freedom House Museum of the slave trade in Alexandria, supports the motion — though she told AP that people should be wary of simply ignoring unpleasant parts of American history.
"Some of my challenge in dealing with Freedom House is that people don't want to remember," she said.
Wilson's larger project is to rid Alexandria of a number of antiquated laws. In that vein, his bill also attempts to scrap a section of code that prohibits unmarried people from associating or cohabitating "lewdly and lasciviously." Other outdated laws, such as one that prohibits cohabitation on tenant leases, will remain on the books, but Wilson told Old Town Alexandria Patch that he might try to rid Alexandria of those as well further down the road.