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How to Remember History

September 5, 2019

I discuss how, in my capacity as a Virginia State Delegate, this morning I helped to consign Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington County to the dustbin of history. This, almost a century after Route One was first renamed to honor the Mississippi traitor who led the bloody fight against the Union in order to preserve slavery.

This is an important change because naming the highway in honor of Davis in 1922 — some sixty years after the Civil War — had very little to do with Davis, who had few, if any, ties to Virginia, other than serving as the President of the Confederacy in its Richmond capital. The purpose instead was to terrorize Virginia’s black population into submitting to unconstitutional second-class legal status under Virginia law. In 1922, Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the KKK were at their peak power, while poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses kept the descendants of the courageous African-Americans who fought Davis and died for the Union from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

The values of a century ago are no longer Virginia values and certainly not the values of the people of Arlington or Alexandria. I’m proud every elected representative in Arlington (and Alexandria, which changed its signs earlier this year) emphatically supported the name change, and I thank both the Arlington County Board and the Commonwealth Transportation Board for unanimously standing on the right side of history.

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