Among them are two of the county’s largest thoroughfares: Lee Highway, named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and Lee Jackson Memorial Highway, named for Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
The dialogue over what to call those highways, and a host of parks and recreation centers that also honor Confederate leaders, can serve to bring greater awareness about Fairfax’s role in the Civil War and the role African Americans have played in the county, Supervisor Walter L. Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill) said during a Tuesday board committee meeting about the effort.
“It’s a community discussion that is going to be more long-lasting and meaningful than the actual final change,” said Alcorn, who along with Supervisor Dalia A. Palchik (D-Providence) co-sponsored a motion in June to launch the renaming process.
“We’re definitely moving down this path, not to in any way erase history, but to bring it alive,” Alcorn said. “And, where appropriate, to think about where we do want to glorify something or someone [who is] not a Confederate leader.”
Dozens of Confederate monuments in Virginia have been taken down this year, an effort made possible by a new state law giving local jurisdictions authority over the fate of war monuments and memorials, and accelerated by the protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Last month, Fairfax officials removed a stone obelisk outside the county courthouse that marked the site where the first Confederate soldier was killed in a land battle and a pair of accompanying Dahlgren howitzers. The board agreed to donate the obelisk to a local historical society and to send the howitzers to the Manassas National Battlefield Park. A state marker commemorating the battle was sent to the state Department of Historic Resources.
Meanwhile, schools and highways named after Confederate leaders have also been renamed across the state.
Fairfax would also rely heavily on community input in dealing with street names and other public property, while commercial property owners and developers would have to sign off on renaming shopping centers and neighborhood subdivisions that honor Confederate leaders.
Several county supervisors said a high priority will be to find new names for Lee Highway and Lee Jackson Memorial Highway in the county.
Palchik said it would make sense to coordinate with Arlington officials on what to call Lee Highway for the sake of consistency.
Supervisor Rodney L. Lusk’s Lee District was not mentioned in a county history commission’s list of sites to be considered for renaming.
But Lusk, the board’s sole African American member, said he will spearhead an effort to separate his district from the legacy of one of the Confederacy’s most prominent leaders.
“We will have to have a community conversation about this name and this district,” Lusk (D) said.