After a county review of public facilities in Loudoun honoring racist figures and symbols identified 16 public roads, county supervisors have voted to start the process of coming up with new names for them.
Loudoun County supervisors in December asked the county staff members to inventory county and state owned facilities named for Confederate and segregationist figures. At the same meeting, they began wheels turning to rename Rt. 7 and Rt. 50 where they honor lawmaker Harry Byrd, known for leading “massive resistance” to integration in Virginia, and Confederate cavalry commander John Mosby. In May, they followed up by setting out a process for coming up with and recommending new names for those highways.
The scope of the inventory of other racist symbols was limited to things the Board of Supervisors has authority to rename, or influence in renaming. The list now includes Confederate Court near Lucketts, Fort Johnston Road near Leesburg, Jeb Stuart Road in Philomont, and near Round Hill, Hampton Road, Early Avenue, Jackson Avenue, Lee Drive, Longstreet Avenue and Pickett Road, all in the Hillwood Estates subdivision. It also includes the signs marking the Mosby Heritage Area in Loudoun.
The county board can change the names of those roads at its discretion. In the case of Rt. 50 and Rt. 7, that authority lies with the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and for the Mosby Heritage Area signs, with the Virginia Department of Transportation. The former Mosby Heritage Area Association, a conservation and preservation group in the area, has already changed its name to the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area.
More roads could also remain; the report notes it does not include names whose origin is unclear—such as several roads named Lee in Sterling Park, which could refer to the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, or could refer to other Lees.
And county staff members also volunteered one more name which they said was not in the scope of the report but which is worth noting: Kephart Bridge Landing, named for George Kephart, who owned both Coton and Belmont plantations for a period of time. Born in 1795 and dying in 1870, he became wealthy working in the slave trade, both for one of the largest slave trading companies in the country and as the owner of slave pens and a slave ship traveling between Alexandria and New Orleans, according to the report.
Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) wondered if there was more to know about the people who led a war for slavery against the United States.
“Has the Heritage Commission or staff determined what the actual views of each of these individuals specifically were, per se?” Kerhsner asked. “Specifically the generals, just because they have an association with the Confederacy?”
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) had already done that research, pointing to examples such as Wade Hampton’s paramilitary Red Shirts after the Civil War.
“The term ‘because they happened to have Confederate history is a little like, ‘other than that, Mr. Lincoln, how was the play?’” Randall said. “Happening to have Confederate history means they were on the side that wanted to keep people enslaved. That’s what the Confederacy was and in the end, that’s what the Civil War was.”
“They did in fact secede from the Union, they are seditionist and traitors, and there’s np way we should be honoring or naming roads, buildings or having signs about them,” said Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian).
“What message do we send to African Americans by having so many things named after Confederates and segregationists? What message does it send to our Latino, Asian and Native American populations that Loudoun gives such honor to white supremacists?” said Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling). “The argument often is made that these people simply represented their time, but if that were the case, they would not have had to fight for slavery, or fight for segregation. The reason they had to do this is because plenty of people at that time thought slavery and Jim Crow were despicable. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. Why on Earth are we debating whether they should be honored in 2021?”
Supervisors voted 8-0-1 to develop a work plan and public process for coming up with new names for those roads, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) absent, and 7-1-1 to come up with cost estimates to hiring consultants to research the provenance of names where it is unclear.