2020 | Government

Council wants to rename streets, buildings that honor Confederate soldiers

Members request review from county executive, Planning Department chairman

Screenshot via Google Street View

The Montgomery County Council has asked Executive Marc Elrich and Planning Department Chairman Casey Anderson to review the names of all county-owned streets and public facilities to determine which are named after Confederate soldiers “or those who otherwise do not reflect Montgomery County values.”

In a letter, all nine council members ask for all streets and facilities that Elrich and Anderson identify to be renamed through a public process, in a “manner that more appropriately reflects the community to which they belong.”

The letter does not identify any possible facilities that need to be renamed. But in an email on Tuesday morning, Aaron Kraut, a staff member for Council Member Andrew Friedson, wrote that three streets in Potomac — Jeb Stuart Road, Jubal Early Court and Jeb Stuart Court — are possible targets. Stuart and Early were Confederate Army generals.

In cities across the country, people protesting for racial justice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have demanded that Confederate statues be removed.

Floyd died on May 25 after a police officer had him pinned to the ground and pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. His death, which was captured on video, inspired widespread protests across the country that have spanned several weeks. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and charged with murder.

Many protesters have argued that Confederate statues and namesakes honor a legacy of slavery. Proponents have resisted the calls for change, arguing in favor of protecting the heritage and history, even when it’s flawed.

In the past month, Confederate monuments have been removed in several cities, including Richmond, Va.; Louisville, Ky.; and Jacksonville, Fla.

This week, the speaker of Maryland’s House of Delegates won a fight to have a plaque honoring Confederate soldiers removed from the Maryland State House.

The Montgomery County review is the latest in several recent pushes to rename facilities named after Confederate soldiers, slave owners and segregationists in Montgomery County.

In 2017, the county removed a statue of a Confederate cavalryman from outside the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville.

Last year, the Montgomery County school board began a review of all school names and identified six named after slave owners. The school board has not yet reviewed the report, but member Pat O’Neill in August said the exercise would be primarily for informational purposes.

The school district does, however, plan to rename Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring.

Col. E. Brooke Lee, the namesake of the middle school in Silver Spring, is credited with developing the county’s first land use and zoning system. But historians say he purposely attached racially restrictive policies prohibiting African Americans from buying or renting homes in subdivisions.

In February 2019, County Council Member Nancy Navarro, a former school board member, urged MCPS to consider renaming the school to align with the completion of an ongoing renovation and addition project, set to be finished in 2021.

Montgomery County itself is named after Richard Montgomery, who historians believe acquired slaves when he married into his wife’s family.

Countywide, more than 56 percent of residents are people of color, compared to 28 percent in 1990, according to a report the county Planning Department released last year.
In its letter this week, County Council members wrote that officials must “target the symbols that normalize and legitimize” racism.

“We cannot change the troubling aspects of our past, but we must confront it — honestly and openly,” the letter said. “We cannot recreate history, but we can decide how accurately we reflect it, and who we choose to glorify from it.”

During a Gaithersburg City Council meeting on Monday night, Council Member Ryan Spiegel requested an inventory to determine whether there are any Confederate monuments in Gaithersburg.

Spiegel said he believes city staff members have in recent years done a review and determined there aren’t any, but “I wouldn’t mind having [the] staff revisit that just to make sure we’re all still on the same page,” he said.

“And if there are such monuments, I think we ought to have a conversation about it, and what’s the appropriate way to respond to that,” Spiegel said.
He said he would like the review to include whether any streets are named after former slave owners.

Staff writer Dan Schere contributed to this story.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com