Alexandria to begin process of renaming streets honoring Confederate figures

Alexandria officially has a process in place to rename streets honoring Confederate leaders and other controversial figures in U.S. history.

The city has passed a new budget that specifically includes funding for a process to rename these streets.

Dana Colarulli lives on Forrest Road in Alexandria, likely named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the KKK.

Colarulli knows changing the name here will likely be part of Alexandria’s conversation one day.

"Everything’s a process," Colarulli says. "No, it’s not something that we talk about all the time, but certainly there’s an awareness of why our street is named after its name, so I think it’s worthwhile considering changing it."


Fairfax could rename Lee Highway, other roads due to Confederate ties

Fairfax wants to change the name of Lee Highway, Old Lee Highway and more roads in the city to continue a reconsideration of confederate names.

The newly-passed Alexandria budget essentially sets up a process by which a name change may be considered.

"At the beginning, we’re going to focus on some of these streets that are more ‘no brainers,’" says Mayor Justin Wilson.

In the early 1950s, Alexandria’s council made it part of their city code that new streets should try and be named after figures from the Confederacy.

Wilson believes that was meant to send a message.

"This was a perpetuation of racial terror, that’s what this was about. These were done in the 50s and 60s and early part of the 70s, really to send a message," he says.

There are an estimated 41 of these streets and Wilson says the city expects to consider about three a year. But it’s more than just the name that the city will have to consider.

For example, Echols Avenue was named after John Echols, a Confederate general. And Beauregard Street was named after the man who led the Confederate army during the opening battle of the Civil War.

Changing the name of Echols Avenue would be less challenging since there are just a few dozen residents who live here.

But changing Beauregard to something else would logistically be tougher. It’s a major thoroughfare through town with many more residents and businesses, meaning Echols may be more likely to see a name change before Beauregard. 

FOX 5 asked Mayor Wilson his response to whether or not doing this was trying to erase history. He said the intention behind renaming these streets during the civil rights era was clear, and he hopes streets are renamed for more worthy figures. 

"This is not about erasing from our history books," says Wilson. "We still have a wonderful city museum that tells these stories and talks about these histories and these individuals, but there’s a difference between telling and interpreting history and honoring people that are not worthy of honor."

Wilson said there are other streets still being studied to determine how and why they were named.

As for the process here, there’s a committee that will pick potential streets to change—they will have public hearings. Then, the city council will also have public hearings based on what that committee decides to do.

Overall, a lot of public input will be allowed with each street over the next several years.