2021 | Government

County chooses new names for Potomac streets, will no longer honor Confederate leaders

New names commemorate prominent Black community members

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Montgomery County planners have identified new names for three streets in Potomac that are currently named after Confederate leaders.

On Friday, the Montgomery County Planning Department announced that:

• J.E.B. Stuart Road will become Geneva Mason Road
• J.E.B. Stuart Court will become Geneva Mason Court
• Jubal Early Court will become William Dove Court

Geneva Mason and William Dove, for whom the streets will be renamed, were community leaders in what is known as the “Scotland” community, near Seven Locks Road in Potomac.

The community was one originally made up of formerly enslaved people.
Mason, who died in 1980, “was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Scotland community and its fight against urban renewal efforts in the 1960s,” according to the Planning Department’s press release.

Dove, a Black man who was born into slavery, was one of the founding members of the Scotland community.

“These street names will honor the legacies of these local African American historical figures going forward and take a small step towards righting the wrongs of our past,” Planning Director Gwen Wright wrote in the press release.

The current names of the streets were identified during a review process of having “full name matches with Confederate soldiers,” according to the planning department.

The three streets are within half a mile of each other in Potomac and were first proposed for renaming at a Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting in December.

J.E.B. Stuart Court and J.E.B. Stuart Road are part of the Montgomery Square subdivision. Jubal Early Court is part of the Regent Parks subdivision. The change will affect 65 houses.

James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart was a Confederate Army general and cavalry commander. Jubal Early was a Confederate general. Both Confederates raided Montgomery County during the Civil War.

In a letter to homeowners on the streets, Wright wrote that some suggested the roads have names associated with native botanicals, like “blue lilac.”

But, Wright continued, others argued that it was critical that the streets bear the names of local African American historical figures.

“Using Confederate Generals’ names for streets in my neighborhood was an injustice that did harm to people in the community,” one resident wrote to planners, according to Wright’s letter. “Choosing an innocuous name such as Blue Lilac would be an insult to the people who were harmed by the choice of Confederate names, and is merely trying to pretend like the injustice never happened.”

The renaming initiative began when Council Member Andrew Friedson spearheaded a June letter from the council to County Executive Marc Elrich and Planning Department Chairman Casey Anderson. The letter asked for all streets and facility names in the county to be reviewed to determine which are named after Confederates, sympathizers or slaveholders.

Previously, county officials said they would explore the possibility of reimbursing homeowners for the costs associated with changing their addresses.

In her letter, Wright wrote that reimbursements are not possible.

“Exploring these options is one of the reasons that we have been so delayed in getting back to you all with final decisions.” she wrote. “Please know that we tried hard to find a solution, but were unsuccessful.”

Homeowners can expect another letter within the next 30 days formally initiating the renaming process.

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